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Liberté, égalité…and focus groups

He’s only 39 and has just risen to power in the recent French presidential elections, making him France’s youngest presidential candidate ever. He did all this without the backing of a single established political party. Yes, Emmanuel Macron is the man of the moment.

So, just how did the former investment banker pull this all off?

Well, aside from his own skills and attributes, a humble asset in the IC toolbox played a big part in his success – talking to your audience.

IC professionals know the importance of focus groups and interviews but in today’s age of ‘big data’, social media, and comms bots, they perhaps seem a touch…well, old-fashioned.

Nouvelle vague?

After establishing his political organisation, ‘En Marche!’, Mr Macron mobilised an army of supporters to go old-school and knock on people’s doors. Using data provided by a political firm, Macron’s supporters identified districts and neighbourhoods that were deemed ‘representative of France as a whole’.

His team of data gatherers then visited these countrywide areas to engage with the local residents. They carried out 25,000 in-depth interviews, and analysed the data en masse. Why? To inform campaign priorities and policies, gauging the sentiment of the country and putting voters directly in contact with his supporters.

In short, his nationwide ‘focus group’ laid the groundwork for tailored communications and a highly effective election campaign.

The nature of insight

What this approach exemplifies, is the power of combining both quantitative and qualitative data. A method that results in true insight. We can only ever gain real understanding when we are sympathetic to the motivations of people – what inspires them, what compels them and what influences them. Never underestimate the power of conversation when it comes to understanding what motivates people.

IC food for thought

If the news reports of Macron’s election strategy are accurate, then focus groups and conversations have the ability to affect sweeping change, shift the dynamics of power and possibly even blow the course of a country in a different direction. And if that’s the case, we IC professionals should pay attention.