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

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Mimi Levin Lieber, a pioneer in the use of focus groups to form merchandise progress and marketing and advertising at some of the country’s greatest corporations, and later on a stalwart advocate for early childhood literacy in New York, died on Oct. 16 at Mount Sinai West clinic in Manhattan. She was 93.

Her son James Lieber reported the cause was respiratory failure.

Mrs. Lieber was a person of various social experts, a lot of of them girls, who in the 1950s and ’60s took investigation coming out of establishments like the University of Chicago and Columbia University and applied it to internet marketing and promoting.

It was a time when American consumer patterns were being modifying and providers had been battling to hold up. What had as soon as been a mass-market economic system, in which organizations marketed a number of products and solutions to as quite a few people today as attainable, was swiftly segmenting, with customers demanding objects customized to their requires.

Mrs. Lieber’s distinct specialty, to start with at a Chicago promoting agency and afterwards on her own, was the concentrate group — now a staple in the company globe, but a novel solution at the time.

She would gather 8 or ten randomly picked folks close to an oval desk right after do the job, give them food items and chat with them, first about their working day, and then, as soon as they have been at ease, about issues like their personal cleanliness, underwear alternatives or courting choices. She would crunch individuals insights into voluminous data sets for company shoppers like Hanes and Basic Mills.

“It may well audio incredibly essential and unprofound,” she mentioned in an job interview with Newsday in 1993, “but the problem with the American system of business enterprise is that companies think operationally, ‘This is what we’re very good at making, now how do we market it?’ — alternatively than wondering as marketers, ‘What does the consumer want, and we’ll generate 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 Courtroom for the Japanese District of Michigan her mother, Rhoda (Katzin) Levin, was a homemaker.

The Levins are a loved ones thick with political accomplishment. Mrs. Lieber’s 1st 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 very same seat. A single of Mrs. Lieber’s sons, Janno, is the acting chairman and main govt of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Mrs. Lieber analyzed social psychology at the College of Chicago, wherever she acquired a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a master’s in 1951. The university was at the forefront of sociological research and education and learning, and she and a lot of other college students ended up among a vanguard that introduced the university’s insights into the private sector.

Soon after graduation, she moved to New York, exactly where she worked at the Bureau of Applied Social Study, an institute at Columbia operate by the sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld. For the duration of Environment War II, Dr. Lazarsfeld and his colleagues experienced made tactics for screening and tweaking governing administration information, most notably by way of the use of what they named the focused job interview.

Alternatively of inquiring persons to comprehensive a survey to see no matter whether they appreciated a program, Dr. Lazarsfeld’s team would assemble people in a room and probe why — an approach he brought to company clientele soon after the war finished.

Mrs. Lieber aided refine all those techniques, at Columbia and later on at a analysis business in Britain. Dr. Lazarsfeld’s very first teams had collected in dingy rooms, with his crew observing from a corner. Now they ended up provided snacks and sat in cozy chairs in properly-lit locations as they chatted informally with a facilitator. The rest of the researchers have been hidden behind a one particular-way mirror.

Mrs. Lieber returned to the United States in 1955, using a job in Chicago with Tatham-Laird, an promoting company renowned for its understanding of the American center-class buyer.

“She was a person of people men and women who was seriously in the nitty-gritty of figuring how to do emphasis teams,” Liza Featherstone, the author of “Divining Want: Concentrate Teams and the Lifestyle of Consultation,” said in an interview. “She was one particular of the earliest men and women to deliver the aim team into the promotion marketplace.”

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 another son, Theo her daughter, Angie and 10 grandchildren.

In 1961 Mrs. Lieber struck out on her have, founding Lieber Attitude Investigate. She staffed it virtually solely with women and pitched herself as another person uniquely poised to explain female customers. Within just a several yrs she was doing work with main ad agencies like Ogilvy & Mather and, by them, consumers like Hanes, Citibank and Common Mills.

For the up coming 30 many years she delivered a steady guideline to firms trying to remain forward of the fast shifting American consumer, especially as gals moved into the workplace and adult men started to get on additional domestic responsibilities.

“There was this embrace of the strategy of segmenting the current market, that distinctive groups have distinctive preferences and that companies require to sector to these specific segments of the buyer general public,” Lizabeth Cohen, a historian at Harvard and the author of “A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Usage in Postwar The us,” stated in an interview.

One of Mrs. Lieber’s largest successes came in 1969, when her research among women of all ages furnished the framework for L’eggs, a line of pantyhose from Hanes sold not in division stores but at supermarket checkout traces, in platic egg-shaped containers. It was a radical — and extremely effective — go, but a person Hanes could possibly never ever have taken experienced Mrs. Lieber’s exploration not proven that gals had been keen for it.

She commenced an additional chapter in her lifetime in 1981 when Jerrold Nadler, then a member of the New York State Assembly (and now a U.S. consultant), nominated her to the New York Board of Regents.

The board oversees the state’s instructional actions, but Mrs. Lieber promptly chafed at what she noticed as a preoccupation with increased education and learning at the cost of elementary faculty, specifically in decreased-money neighborhoods. She invested much of her time on the board pushing for much more funding for lower-income faculties.

In 1987 she pushed the regents to distribute condition funds primarily based on the share of low-earnings small children at a offered faculty, an exertion that remodeled the way the condition techniques educational investing.

Mrs. Lieber left the board in 1996, the exact same 12 months she started Literacy Inc., identified as LINC, a nonprofit that encourages examining in reduced-profits neighborhoods in New York.

Currently LINC works with dozens of educational facilities and public libraries throughout the metropolis.

“Her legacy reminds us that we should assistance and commit in our children’s education from the earliest several years, when it issues the most,” Consultant Nadler mentioned in a assertion, “and that universal literacy is vital to sustaining a healthier democracy.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.