Mimi Levin Lieber, Whose Focus Groups Shaped Postwar Promoting, Dies at 93

Mimi Levin Lieber, a pioneer in the use of concentrate groups to form product advancement and internet marketing at some of the country’s biggest businesses, and afterwards a stalwart advocate for early childhood literacy in New York, died on Oct. 16 at Mount Sinai West healthcare facility in Manhattan. She was 93.

Her son James Lieber said the trigger was respiratory failure.

Mrs. Lieber was one particular of numerous social researchers, many of them gals, who in the 1950s and ’60s took study coming out of establishments like the University of Chicago and Columbia College and used it to marketing and promotion.

It was a time when American consumer patterns have been changing and corporations have been having difficulties to keep up. What experienced once been a mass-market place economy, in which businesses marketed a number of products to as several persons as achievable, was fast segmenting, with individuals demanding merchandise tailor-made to their demands.

Mrs. Lieber’s specific specialty, initial at a Chicago advertising and marketing agency and later on on her very own, was the focus group — now a staple in the business world, but a novel technique at the time.

She would obtain eight or 10 randomly picked people about an oval desk after perform, give them food stuff and chat with them, initial about their day, and then, once they have been relaxed, about issues like their own cleanliness, underwear alternatives or relationship tastes. She would crunch individuals insights into voluminous information sets for company purchasers like Hanes and Basic Mills.

“It may seem pretty basic and unprofound,” she mentioned in an interview with Newsday in 1993, “but the problem with the American program of enterprise is that companies think operationally, ‘This is what we’re excellent at developing, now how do we offer it?’ — rather than contemplating as marketers, ‘What does the buyer want, and we’ll develop it.’”

Miriam Leah Levin was born on March 22, 1928, in Detroit. Her father, Theodore Levin, was the chief judge on the U.S. District Court for the Japanese District of Michigan her mom, Rhoda (Katzin) Levin, was a homemaker.

The Levins are a relatives thick with political achievement. Mrs. Lieber’s initially cousin, Carl Levin, was a Democratic senator from Michigan (he died in July), and his brother, Sandy, was a Democratic consultant from the condition Sandy’s son Andy now holds the exact seat. A person of Mrs. Lieber’s sons, Janno, is the acting chairman and chief govt of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Mrs. Lieber studied social psychology at the University of Chicago, the place she obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s in 1951. The university was at the forefront of sociological study and training, and she and several other students had been between a vanguard that brought the university’s insights into the personal sector.

Soon after graduation, she moved to New York, exactly where she worked at the Bureau of Applied Social Investigation, an institute at Columbia run by the sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld. Throughout Environment War II, Dr. Lazarsfeld and his colleagues had formulated approaches for testing and tweaking governing administration details, most notably by the use of what they called the concentrated job interview.

Alternatively of asking folks to entire a study to see whether or not they appreciated a software, Dr. Lazarsfeld’s workforce would assemble folks in a room and probe why — an tactic he brought to company customers immediately after the war ended.

Mrs. Lieber aided refine people solutions, at Columbia and afterwards at a exploration agency in Britain. Dr. Lazarsfeld’s initially teams had gathered in dingy rooms, with his workforce looking at from a corner. Now they were given treats and sat in snug chairs in perfectly-lit places as they chatted informally with a facilitator. The relaxation of the scientists had been concealed at the rear of a a single-way mirror.

Mrs. Lieber returned to the United States in 1955, taking a task in Chicago with Tatham-Laird, an advertising and marketing agency renowned for its knowledge of the American center-course shopper.

“She was a single of people people who was actually in the nitty-gritty of figuring how to do focus teams,” Liza Featherstone, the author of “Divining Desire: Concentration Groups and the Culture of Session,” mentioned in an job interview. “She was one of the earliest people to carry the target team into the promoting industry.”

She married Charles Lieber in 1960. He died in 2016. Along with her sons James and Janno, she is survived by her brothers, Daniel and Joseph a different son, Theo her daughter, Angie and 10 grandchildren.

In 1961 Mrs. Lieber struck out on her individual, founding Lieber Frame of mind Investigation. She staffed it practically completely with girls and pitched herself as an individual uniquely poised to demonstrate female people. Within a few a long time she was functioning with leading ad companies like Ogilvy & Mather and, via them, clientele like Hanes, Citibank and Common Mills.

For the upcoming 30 yrs she offered a regular tutorial to providers seeking to keep forward of the quickly shifting American customer, particularly as girls moved into the workplace and adult men started to take on much more domestic tasks.

“There was this embrace of the idea of segmenting the market, that distinct groups have various preferences and that companies need to market place to these particular segments of the consumer general public,” Lizabeth Cohen, a historian at Harvard and the writer of “A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar The us,” said in an interview.

A single of Mrs. Lieber’s most significant successes came in 1969, when her investigate amid females furnished the framework for L’eggs, a line of pantyhose from Hanes marketed not in department merchants but at grocery store checkout strains, in platic egg-formed containers. It was a radical — and pretty prosperous — move, but a person Hanes could possibly never ever have taken had Mrs. Lieber’s analysis not demonstrated that ladies had been keen for it.

She began a further chapter in her lifestyle in 1981 when Jerrold Nadler, then a member of the New York Point out Assembly (and now a U.S. representative), nominated her to the New York Board of Regents.

The board oversees the state’s instructional functions, but Mrs. Lieber instantly chafed at what she noticed as a preoccupation with larger training at the expenditure of elementary faculty, especially in reduced-revenue neighborhoods. She spent a great deal of her time on the board pushing for much more funding for reduced-profits universities.

In 1987 she pushed the regents to distribute state income primarily based on the share of small-earnings children at a specified faculty, an energy that reworked the way the point out techniques educational shelling out.

Mrs. Lieber remaining the board in 1996, the identical 12 months she started Literacy Inc., recognised as LINC, a nonprofit that promotes studying in reduce-income neighborhoods in New York.

Today LINC operates with dozens of colleges and community libraries across the city.

“Her legacy reminds us that we should guidance and make investments in our children’s education and learning from the earliest many years, when it matters the most,” Agent Nadler said in a assertion, “and that universal literacy is vital to sustaining a healthy democracy.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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