Standard Article

Focus Groups and Depth Interviews

Part 2. Marketing Research

  1. Dennis W. Rook

Published Online: 15 DEC 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444316568.wiem02010

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing

How to Cite

Rook, D. W. 2010. Focus Groups and Depth Interviews. Wiley International Encyclopedia of Marketing. 2.

Author Information

  1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2010


Historically, marketers gathered marketplace data through extensive surveying or polling that generated statistical measures of consumers' demographic characteristics, product and media consumption behavior, purchase intentions, and so on. However, the explanatory power of the survey data is limited by its largely descriptive, factual, and somewhat mechanical qualities. The subtler factors that explain why, for example, women like Brand X significantly more than men often lie below the surface and are likely to elude blunt survey instruments with their direct questions, fixed-format responses, and few degrees of freedom. At around the same time that intellectual grumbling about survey research was gaining momentum in the 1930s, psychological theories, insights, and methods began to migrate into marketing thought and quickly expanded and enriched marketing's domain. No longer wedded so strongly to quantitative survey methodology, various types of what came to be known as qualitative research came quickly onto the marketing scene. Within the qualitative research arena, individual marketing researchers designed their studies around talking with and interviewing consumers either on an individual basis or in group discussions. Over time, the former research approach became known as individual depth interviews (or IDIs) and the latter are most commonly called focus groups. This article traces the origins of these two pervasive qualitative methods, identifies their similarities and differences, and discusses current issues that surround their uses in marketing-research today.


  • focus groups;
  • depth interviews;
  • qualitative research;
  • consumer intimacy;
  • motivation research