Krisis: My Favorite Kind of Focus Groups

Krisis: My Favorite Kind of Focus Groups

Krisis focus groups are meant to encourage conflict. This, as I have mentioned before, is the reason why they are my favorite kind of focus group. “Krisis” is Ipsos’ brand name for version of debate-style or conflict-style qualitative research. Instead of using focus groups to find commonality or arrive at consensus, Krisis focus groups make sparks fly. Even though there are several ways to do conflict-based focus groups, I did my first Krisis focus group with Ipsos back in 2007, and I’ve called this genre of qualitative research “Krisis” ever since.  I guess that’s the power of branding.  Anyway, the name is appropriate. The word krisis is Greek for “moment of truth.” That’s why I like this approach — it gets at truth.

Executing a Krisis Focus Group:

In the official “Krisis”-branded version that Ipsos delivers, each focus group has nine consumers. Each group of nine consists of three sub-groups of three consumers. The different sub-groups have divergent points-of-view from the others. Over the course of the discussion, the focus group is guided by the moderator(s) into a constructive debate on the business issue.

I have done official Krisis-Method Groups with Ipsos and I have done “unofficial” conflict groups with other suppliers. Whatever the approach, in all cases, I am consistently pleased with the insights they generate.

Why I Like the Philosophy Behind Krisis and Still Use it Today:

In my experience in qualitative research, there are several big advantages to creating conflict in a focus group:

Counter-Balance the Big Personalities:  Some people try to control a focus group by force of personality.  If there are “big personalities” in the room, they have to work harder to commandeer the discussion. At least three other people already disagree with her and must debate her point-of-view.

Less Group-Think:  Group-think can be a real issue if you are looking for consensus in focus groups.  In a divided room, where only small pockets of the respondents think and act alike, the reach of group-think is smaller.

Every Culture Likes an Argument:  I have done a lot of qualitative research overseas — especially in Europe.  No two cultures are a like, and different cultures behave differently in focus groups.  Some cultures are more guarded.  This can make getting deep answers to the questions asked rare.  Other cultures may offer straight-forward, fact-based responses that don’t do much for a marketing campaign.  In order to get a more lively discussion from in these counties, debate-style focus groups, in my experience, are very effective no matter where you are.

The Respondents Try to Convince Each Other:  You can spend hours word-smithing concepts to make them sound like the consumer’s “own words.”  If you want to hear a convincing argument for your brand in the consumer’s own words, make them defend why they buy it to a stranger who doesn’t.  If you don’t understand why consumers buy your brand, or you don’t understand why they are leaving your brand, try a conflict-based focus group.


In conclusion, Ipsos’ Krisis method has “officially” existed for over a decade.  Confict-style focus groups have existed even longer.  If you feel that you aren’t getting as much from your consensus-style focus group methodologies, spice things up.  Try to get the respondents to disagree, rather than agree.

Feel free to get a little disagreement going in the comments below too. . .

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