They found that both BMW and Mercedes made deep impressions on the
now middle-aged drivers when they were children or teens. They
recalled feeling the cars were truly special and unique and
"something they wanted to be a part of ." Audi, however, had no
luxury market presence at that time, and thus had the disadvantage
of going up against the entrenched belief that there was nothing
better. Audi's ensuing "New Leaders Require New Tools" campaign
played to luxury car owners' entrepreneurial spirit and perceived
thought leadership in staying ahead with the newest and best tools.
Cheerwine is another example. Building on hypnosis-focus-group
findings that the Southern soft drink tastes different every time
it's consumed, Carolina Beverage Corp. built a marketing strategy
around the drink known internally as "the Trickster." The resulting
ad campaign was tagged "Born in the South. Raised in a glass," and
led to a distribution agreement with Pepsi that increased the drink's
availability to 50% of the U.S. this year, said Kate Newlin, a
business strategy consultant and author of "Passion Brands," who
has worked on many projects with Mr. Goldberg.
Of course, for every Audi and Cheerwine marketer, there are
Said Ms. Newlin, "We start telling a client, "First we do the
hypnosis focus group, and then we call in experts,' and I never get
to the third thing because they stop me about the hypnosis. ...
Part of it is the concern that they'll see themselves on the front
page of The New York Times as hypnotizing consumers in order to get
them to buy their products. Which is the worst possible
Kerry Sette, VP-director of consumer insights for Hill
Holliday/Erwin Penland, in fact, recalled that her group renamed
the sessions "deep-relaxation focus groups" because the group was
using Mr. Goldberg for was conservative wireless client and it
didn't want to scare it off the technique.
Don Gloeckler, exec VP-chief research officer at the ARF, is
familiar with the idea of hypnosis, having used a similar
"relaxation technique" done by Archetype Discoveries years ago when
he worked for a packaged-goods marketer. "It's a technique to get
you in a relaxed state to get you to recall things that are hidden
in your memory," he said. "Legitimate marketers are not trying to
manipulate consumers into doing something they don't want to do.
They're really just trying to get consumers to articulate and
remember an experience they would have trouble remembering on their
When asked why the technique seems to have a controversial
reputation, he said, "My guess is it falls into a similar bucket
with biometric research. ... I can see the consumer fear of being
manipulated by the use of information that 's [subconscious and]
not even available to them. It's important to remember that no one
is harassed into doing this or forced to share anything."
Hypnosis can remove many of the traditional stumbling blocks of
focus groups, such as dominant respondents taking control,
inaccurate recollections, overly cautious and emotionally guarded
subjects, and the very human reaction of mimicking answers to an
unknown question to avoid appearing foolish or uneducated.
Mr. Goldberg said his business is growing in the face of
market-research budget cuts. And while he hasn't seen a noticeable
surge in this competitive social-media age, he also admits he can
only do so much. In fact, his service is at least 50% higher than
the cost of a traditional focus group, not only because it is a
more in-depth process, but is a "filter" to make sure the clients
He estimates he has done 1,500 to 2,000 hypnosis focus groups
for marketers from "Alcoa to Verizon" and many in
between, including Procter &
Gamble, Shell Oil, Volvo, Campbell Soup,
Nabisco. For the last, the insight discovered by hypnosis led to
the introduction of its 100-calorie cookie and snack packs.