What I Learned in Kindergarten is Now the Latest Focus Group Trend

One of my favorite business reading experiences comes from BNET.com -- in particular, I just love Geoffrey James, the Sales Machine writer.  He is so insightfully irreverent that his articles almost always create a series of comments at every extreme.  Sometimes I agree with him, other times I don't.  But I always appreciate his forthright style and down-to-earth assessment of what he sees.

In this article about brand marketing, James goes off on focus groups.  First he mentions a a recent article in the New York Times that says that focus group participants are actually influenced by a marketers presence -- "well duh" he says. (picture me on the floor laughing).  Then he goes on to quote a recent focus group conducted by a market research company that is described this way -
Participants were given iPods programmed with pop music and asked to visually represent how they felt about the concepts for two Web-based applications for Suave, a Unilever hair care line.  While the women were creating the collages, representatives from Unilever watched from an adjacent room.

One montage, which included an upside-down Barbie doll in a pink taffeta dress, her outstretched arms giving the appearance that she was falling from the sky, represented vulnerability and the “ultimate feeling of not being in control,…Depending on the context, outstretched arms also represented playfulness and openness, and they were a theme in many of the images the women selected for their collages.

So what do you think?  Is this valid focus group stuff or is it just BS?