Can a Focus Group Save Spider-Man?
After spending $65 million and previewing the show over sixty times since the end of last year, the producers of the new Spider-Man musical in New York are turning to focus groups and surveys in hopes that market research can do something…anything…to save the amazing Spider-Man from destruction.
Last week, theater critics roundly panned the show, calling it among the worst Broadway shows ever. The New York Times described is as “so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair.” But days after these negative reviews, a market research firm was brought in, soliciting volunteers to help fix the show:
If you love Broadway shows, we would like to invite you to be a test audience member and participate in either Act 1 (first part of show) or Act 2 (second part of show) of the all new Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”
We will be asking you to fill out a survey after the performance, plus stay for a 15 minute discussion in the Spider-Man V.I.P. room. In turn for your feedback and participation you will receive a Spider-Man goodie bag worth over $60.00, on us.
Can market research really rescue the show? Possibly. High quality research, both qualitative (such as focus groups) and quantitative (such as surveys) can provide deep insights into how customers and audiences think, perceive, react, and respond to products, services, and opportunities.
If market research can help rescue the show, here are two suggestions we offer that will be critical to keep in mind:
1. Keep the focus groups focused. Too often clients or managers want their customers to tell them what would make them love their product. That’s not something customers can reliably tell you. They can tell you what they care about, what products they purchase and why, what needs and problems they are trying to solve, and what frustrations they face. Our advice generally: Keep the focus group participants focused on the things that matter to them, then connect the insights gained to the products being offered.
2. Ask only about things that can be fixed. For all the talk about “actionable” research, there is a great deal of research that offers supposedly actionable ideas that clients or managers simply cannot and will not act upon. How does the audience feel about Bono’s music for the show? Unless management is prepared to dump Bono or have him re-write (again), don’t ask. The key is to determine during the research design which specific decisions can and cannot be made, and then to focus the research on collecting data that lends specific insight to those decisions.
Asking market research to help rescue a $65 million investment at the last minute seems like a tall order, but fortunately great research does not take super-human powers. At Versta Research we rely on brains, experience, thoughtfulness, and a commitment to working closely with clients to ensure that we deliver insightful stories that are understood and acted upon.
So what will become of Spider-Man? Will he die under the crushing weight of debt and harsh reviews? Or will the critics groan in agony as Americans happily pay for the worst show on earth? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of “Can a Focus Group Save Spider-Man?”
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.