All focus groups have differentiating elements, but Hispanic focus groups contrast significantly from non-Hispanic focus groups – and even other ethnic focus groups – for several reasons. The primary reason driving the differences is that the U.S. Hispanic population is assimilating more slowly than other immigrant groups. Compared to other immigrants, Hispanics are not only more cohesive, but overall, they more have more successfully resisted pressure to assimilate into the American mainstream.
Hispanics coming from most countries in Central and South America do possess many cultural similarities, most notably the Spanish language and widespread practicing of the Catholic religion. On the other hand, there are many cultural, behavioral and attitudinal differences between Hispanics of different countries of origin, such as dialects and accents, food, music, lifestyle, values and dress.
Because of these differences between segments of the Hispanic population, and based on the hundreds of projects we have conducted, here are some suggestions to ensure maximum effectiveness when conducting Hispanic focus groups:
- As tempting as it may be to have quotas by ‘country of origin’ to reflect the focus group’s market, care should be taken when combining respondents of different Hispanic nationalities within sessions. Ideally they should be separated to observe attitudinal differences. A Hispanic from Miami is different than a Hispanic from Mexico in a multitude on ways that may influence their purchase interest in a product or service or how they respond to advertising.
- Do not hold your research on Catholic holiday or Hispanic-focused holidays, even Americanized ones like Cinco de Mayo.
- The Hispanic moderator should not only be bilingual, but he or she should speak Spanish perfectly and with no heavy accent from his or her country of origin.
- Especially if the subject matter skews stereotypically male or female, Hispanics are most comfortable with a same-sex moderator.
- Don’t default to your favorite facility just because it’s easy. Choose facilities where your respondents live and work to ensure better recruiting and higher show rates.
- Think about transportation and evaluate it as an obstacle to participation. Especially older Hispanics do not have the means to get to a focus group facility. Sometime offering an additional incentive for travel is not enough if they cannot afford to make the trip by taxi to a suburban facility or a location not easily accessible by public transportation.
- Offer a meal starting 30 minutes prior to the session start time to encourage early arrivals. That way, if someone is not there 20 minutes before the groups, recruiters can make phone calls.
- Even so, build in a cushion in case things are not ready to start on time. There are cultural tendencies to be more relaxed about arrival times that not even the offer of a meal can overcome.
- Make sure there are plenty of extra chairs, beverages and food in the lobby or area in which respondents gather prior to the groups. Hispanics very typically come with friends or family members when they come to a focus facility.