People lie to you, and you believe them

Dalibor Šumiga Behavioral marketing/Neuromarketing, Marketing

Look at the line in the left picture…

Which line in the right picture is identical to the line in the left picture?


Did you select the line in the right picture that corresponds to the line in the left picture?

Are you sure that your answer is correct? We will return to this subject.

One of the most common methods used by brands for the purpose of understanding customers better are focus groups.

Typically, focus groups consist of 8 to 10 people who participate in a planned discussion intended to elicit consumer perceptions about a particular brand.

Very often, based on the results of the focus group, decisions concerning the development of a brand are made.

In other words, some very important business decisions are being made based on the opinions of a dozen people sitting in the same room discussing your brand.


Let’s go back to the lines from the beginning of this article. Which line did you choose? 

It would make sense to choose the line C because it is identical to the line in the first image. And you probably did, but you’re reading this article alone, not in the company of seven other people.

What would happen if I asked the same question about these lines in front of a group of 8 people, and they all answered that line B is identical to the line in the first picture?

Do you think you would still be absolutely sure that line C is the correct answer?

Perhaps, but in an experiment conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch, there was an interesting situation. Asch made an experiment on 8 participants of which seven were actors with the task of giving clearly incorrect answers to the question about the lines at certain times.

So, only one subject in the group was an actual experiment participant who was giving honest answers.

What happened? 37% of actual participants, although aware that they were giving the wrong answer, agreed with the answer given by the group of actors.

This phenomenon is called the Asch paradigm and is the best example of the group’s influence on the actions of the individual.

Now imagine that you’re making extremely important decisions about your brand (or your life) based on the opinions of seven people…


The man called the Father of the Focus Group Robert K. Merton said: “Focus groups should only be the source of ideas that need to be explored.”

So why do most brand managers still prefer focus groups? Because we are all people at the end of the day and we love listening to other people talk about us (our brand). When we talk about ourselves (or listen to others talk positively about us), our levels of dopamine in the brain increase. Dopamine is a hormone/neurotransmitter in our brain responsible for motivation and pleasure.

No research apart from focus groups or in-depth interviews gives you the opportunity to listen to your customers talk about your brand live.

When we add to that a desire to confirm our beliefs, most of the brand managers will be very pleased with the focus group in which participants confirm what they themselves thought or wanted to hear. This phenomenon is a cognitive bias known as confirmation bias.

If you were looking for a reason why up to 80% of products disappear from the shelves within one year of launch, why most startups fail and why didn’t you know before that you’re not doing your job well or that your business idea is bad, now you have the answer – because you have listened only to those who have told you only the good things…