October 19, 2007

And Speaking of Churchill

Yesterday we posted a quote from Winston Churchill. Apropos Sir Winston, guest blogger Simon Billing contributes this piece on the silliness of focus groups.

May 28, 1940

The Rt. Hon. W.S. Churchill
The House of Commons
London W1


Please find below the results of our focus groups on the speech you intend to make before Parliament next week. Please note that this research is qualitative in nature and represents the views of: "16 doughty yeomen and good burghers of Albion" (your stated target audience). Nonetheless we feel confident in making some recommendations which we feel will add clarity to the messaging and ultimately garner the desired listener response.

Original Text
"We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Our Findings
• The burgher group felt that use of the pronoun "we" significantly diminished the credibility of the text overall as, for the most part, they felt that you personally wouldn’t be doing any of the fighting.

• Some respondents found the use of the auxiliary verb "shall" to be rather old-fashioned.

• Respondents in Birmingham were unclear on what exactly constitutes a beach.

• It is strongly recommended that reference to "landing grounds" be deleted altogether as most respondents were unable to recall ever seeing or visiting a landing ground.

• The yeomen group had some trouble with the use of fields and streets in the same thought; we must be absolutely clear on what we mean here.

• Respondents generally felt that fighting on hills might be a little tricky, as a result this phrase tended to diminish our "intention to fight" rating.

• Both the burghers and the yeomen were a bit put off by the word "surrender" and felt that the final thought should leave things on a more positive note.

Recommended Text

"We, or rather you, will fight on the sandy bits where the sea meets the land; and you, depending on your precise whereabouts at the time, will fight either in the fields or in the streets, we/you will fight on reasonable inclines; and, so long as things seem to be going our way, we’ll do our best to put on a damn fine show."

In summary, we feel that your text represents a very good start and, with some judicious tweaking, the basic idea will work hard in getting the point across. A final thought: some of the respondents were a little uncomfortable with the notion of "fighting" per se; it may be worth looking at some less confrontational language.

By the way, the preliminary results are now in on the "Never in the field of human conflict…" speech. People seem a little confused by the "field" metaphor given that you are in fact referring to aerial combat. We may need to be a bit more direct on this one.

As always, I remain your loyal and most humble servant,

Brigadier (Ret’d.) Sir Percival Postlethwaite (Bart.) M.C. (and bar) M.B.E., T.D., M.A. (Oxon.)
Managing Director
Stirring Insights Limited

Thanks to Simon Bolling. To be a guest blogger send your post to adcontrarian@gmail.com


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