I just found out that Dan Pallotta blogs at the Harvard Business Review. Pallotta’s a legendary — and in some circles, infamous — marketer of charity events. He started the AIDSRides and the 3 Day events for Breast Cancer. And, as you can imagine, was both inspiration and reference point for the work we did over the last decade for the Revlon Run/Walk for Women.

One post I found especially interesting was this one called Real Leaders Don’t Do Focus Groups.

Personally, I like focus groups — when they’re done well. But they so rarely are. Often, they’re just an opportunity for consumers to become product managers and art directors. And the bland, fear-driven, mediocre work that results from letting these amateur critics drive your decisions virtually ensures that your brand or product will blend in with the crowd.

But sometimes — usually under a smart, experienced group leader — you get a flash of insight, a glimpse into your target audience’s mind, or confirmation of an inkling of an idea you have. And when that happens, the hours you spend peering through the two-way mirror are well worthwhile.

Bottom line? Proceed with caution. Don’t take research results as gospel. Let your creative vision drive the process. Take a risk. Be different. Show the world you’re special. Give them a reason to fall in love.

Allow your audience to discover you instead of predict you.