Tag Archives: ethnography

5 Ways to Work it Like a (Go) Pro

We love doing
in-context or ethnographic research. 
It’s so fun to immerse ourselves into a respondent’s environment and
learn ‘what’s really going on’ vs. ‘what respondents say’ in a focus group
setting. And, yes, video is a great way to effectively capture the interviews ‘
it provides authenticity but also comes with some drawbacks. Regardless of someone’s
moderating skills, it’s more awkward for a respondent when you add a video
camera to the mix.  For the last few
years, we rarely take video during our
ethnographies due to the ‘cumbersome nature’ of the equipment.   

 To solve one of these problems, we could enlist the help of our clients.
However, walking them through operating a camera is technical and takes away
from the ‘in the moment’ learning.

At ABRG, we found
a small and mighty answer to this multi-layer dilemma. Insert GoPro Hero 4 Silver! 
We chose a GoPro because its versatile capabilities allow flexibility for any
ethnography or in-context research situation.

  1. Mounting accessories:  we love the Go Pro’s various accessories and bought
    the suction cup, flex clamp, and hand grip. These make it easier to walk with it
    or mount it wherever you need to take video ‘ bathroom, kitchen, etc. The clamp accessory especially,
    is useful doing in-homes because furniture can easily become camera equipment.
  2. Size:  It’s tiny, which is another asset when
    recording. Because it’s not bulky, respondents don’t notice it when they are being interviewed ‘ it fades
    into the background.
  3. Great
    quality video at close proximity
    ‘ the video quality on a GoPro is stellar,
    especially when it’s put on the ‘narrow’ setting.
  4. Mark-up ability:
    it is easy to mark up interesting, noteworthy parts of the interview in the
    moment!  This makes sorting through
    footage later so much less painful!
  5. Remote
    control via iPhone app
    : the GoPro contains a remote feature that allows you
    to control angle, start/stop, etc. from your iPhone, which is awesome.  If needed, the interviewer can both record
    and conduct interviews without enlisting the help of another team member or client.

All of these features are great but getting up to speed and
feeling comfortable with it requires bit of ‘ramp up’. We believe in creating step-by-step
Process Documents to keep us from reinventing the wheel so we put all our
knowledge into words in the format of a laminated Process
Document containing
the ins-and-outs of ‘how to use a GoPro.’ To easily access this guide when we are in the field, we made it so that
it easily fits inside the GoPro’s case and color-coded it based on topic.
Additionally, the GoPro, its parts and mounting accessories are labeled and
correspond with the user guide as reference.  In conjunction with the
process document, we also labeled all of the parts of the GoPro and the
different mounting accessories. Wherever
the GoPro goes, a user-friendly guide goes with it.
To GoPro or not?  That
is the question.  So far, we’re loving
April Bell. Owner, Researcher, Facilitator and the ‘force of nature’ at April Bell Research Group, a full service boutique market research agency helping researchers shine.

Ethnography Alone Cannot Generate Transformative Insights

Consumer Anthropology offers such refreshing
insights into the marketplace, re-humanizing the relationship between people, things,
and stores in very profound and moving ways. This movement has also helped
stores to get their noses out of spreadsheet and theories and keep their eye on
the customer experience.

Whether in-store or online, this ethnographic
sensitivity has positively been leveraged to optimize the present experience or
redeem oversights and chokepoints of history. This type of insight begins by
taking an objective snapshot of the experience, detaching, and seeing how to
make them relatively immediately better.
All of these good things come from the business
discipline of consumer ethnography. These changes make customers happier and
help drive more sales per square foot (or per pixel); a win-win.
Yet, time and time again, we have seen clients who
tried to use a pure consumer ethnographic approach to their innovation programs
who fail. Why? What happened?
The purpose of innovation and the job of pure
ethnography are at odds. The purpose of innovation is to generate new value.
You accomplish this objective with foresight, creativity, and fresh thinking.
The job of ethnography is to give insights about the past or present.
Therefore, innovation aims for the future, and ethnography strives to stay
rooted into either the past or the present. Simply put, it is a different lens,
different ways of seeing.
This is why organizations that first try Design
Thinking often ends up with mediocre results in a program. They approach the
first two phase of the process (Empathy and Define) with an academically
rigorous approach to consumer behavior. This primary field data is potent, but
only half of the story.
The other half revolves around a mix of intention,
strategic prowess, ambition, business acumen, a growth instinct, and the
ability to trend cast into the future. The data from secondary sources,
indirect competitive trends, and exercises around new channels, new markets,
and brand elasticity fuel the conversation, insisting that it is well defined,
vigorously focused, and ultimately measurable.
This other half can be defined as the Project (or
Business) objective. Pure ethnographic work without this other half to temper
it lacks a forward thrust needed to truly innovate.
What is needed for a successful innovation program
is a mix, a vital intersection of ethnographic field insights with an
overarching commercial objective. This marriage of openness to the full context
of history and the present moment to delivering new ways to solve old problems
under a specific banner is the archway of profundity, a vast pipeline of possible
Pure ethnography alone will not get you to the point
of having a transformative business or organization or a wide-ranging portfolio
of value-generating concepts. On the flip side, having a business objective and
no deep context of the market also means having a limited sight of vision of
the opportunities. Together, at the intersection of human context and market
focus, exists the key that unlocks real growth.
Michael Graber is the
managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic
growth firm based in Memphis, TN. Visit
www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

Primary Research. Personal Legends. Talking Sticks.

Businesses, organizations, and non-profits grow with the
level of first-hand experiences they have with their prospects,
customers, members, or donors. These entities both know themselves and
also know their audience, their tribe.

This is the Relationship Age ‘ the era of paying attention. Think of it as winning business by paying respect.

To know yourself you have to go through a detailed strategic process
and carefully, consciously create a vibrant culture. To know your
audience, you have to learn to respect people deeply. The primacy of
compassionate and sensitive primary, first-hand, narrative research is
the key that unlocks this world of possibilities.

The hardest thing for organizations to do to accomplish such growth
is to realize that traditional marketing research and segmentation is
outmoded. The reason: it looks at the people with whom it should be
trying to cultivate a relationship as a target, a one-dimensional
object, rather than a fully alive human subject with a treasure trove of
stories, memories, dreams, hopes, and fears. In summary, the old method
edits out the humanity. And, winning the innovation game is about
touching humanity, creating something of value for real people.

When the author of The Alchemist and other books, Paulo
Coelho, was inducted into the Brazilian Academy of Letters, he said,
‘The glory of the world is transitory, and we should not measure our
lives by it, but by the choice we make to follow our personal legend, to
believe in our utopias, and to fight for our dreams.’ And then he
wrote, ‘We are all protagonists of our own lives, and it is often the
anonymous heroes who make the deepest mark.’

By honoring people in this spirit, primary research gets to the heart
of the matter’the human experience with a product, service, or
organization’and taps into the personal legends of each of the people
with whom they are working.

Most of the people working in this field are consumer anthropologists
who have been trained to listen respectfully, probe deeply, and stay
attuned for verbal and non-verbal clues. This tradition goes back to
pre-history days in the legend of the Taking Stick. The Talking Stick
was a method used by Native Americans, to let everyone speak their mind
during a council meeting, a type of tribal meeting. According to the
indigenous Americans’ tradition, the stick was imbued with spiritual
qualities that called up the spirit of their ancestors to guide them in
making good decisions. The stick ensured that all members who wished to
speak had their ideas heard. All members of the circle were valued

The rules of the Talking Stick follow: Whoever holds the talking
stick has within their hands the power of words. Only they can speak
while holding the stick, and the other council members must remain
silent. The eagle feather tied to the stick gives the speaker the
courage and wisdom to speak truthfully and wisely. The rabbit fur on the
end of the stick reminds him that his words must come from his heart.

The history of AA (Alcoholic Anonymous) and other step programs and
the practice of psychotherapy are all based on this awareness: that
speaking the truth is healing. But it is healing for the group as a
whole because as each individual listens, in silence and reverence, a
whole world of understanding opens up.

This world of understanding becomes the basis of innovations that
make lives better and makes organizations more meaningful and

Michael Graber is the founder and managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio. His book on insights and innovation is forthcoming. Michael also serves as the Region Editor of Innovation Excellence and as a founder and mentor at the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp and Atlanta Innovation Bootcamp. He’ll serve as an offical blogger at TMRE.

Ex BBDO Insights Chief: ‘Researchers Have Diluted Ethnography’

Cultural Anthropologist Says ‘Just Being There’ Isn’t Enough

By Marc Dresner, IIR USA

A lot of what passes for ethnography today probably shouldn’t.
That’s according to Dr. Timothy Malefyt, former director of
cultural discoveries at BBDO Worldwide, author of ‘Advertising and Anthropology’
and visiting professor at Fordham University’s Center for Positive Marketing.
‘Ethnography today is really flooded with researchers,’ says
Malefyt, a bona fide anthropologist. ‘This only acts to dilute the quality of research
out there, and it also introduces some bad practices.’

The problem, he says, is that most ethnography today doesn’t
go much beyond ‘just being there”basically watching, peppered with a few

Timothy Malefyt

This isn’t ivory tower snobbery. Malefyt says it boils down
to more than just a semantic distinction between genuine anthropology and perhaps
a more accessible version of observational consumer research.
‘We’re missing a tremendous opportunity,’ he told The Research Insighter, ‘because there
is insufficient rigor and really no use of models of consumer behavior to analyze
what’s going on and actually lead to creative
Setting the question of whether or not Margaret Mead is
rolling in her grave aside, it’s probably worth considering that a PhD in
anthropology is a credential many commercial practitioners of ethnography honestly
can’t lay claim to.
And if Malefyt is right, what do we need to do differently?
In this episode of The
Research Insighter
podcast series, Malefyt discusses:
‘ The importance of balancing emic and etic perspectives
‘ Getting at the complete ‘internal behavioral experience’
‘ Using ethnography to drive creativity, and more’

Editor’s note: Timothy Malefyt will be speaking at The Market Research Event 2013 taking
place October 21-23 in Nashville, TN.
For information or to register, please visit TheMarketResearchEvent.com.

Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

Lead Up To The IIR TDMR: Interview With Matt Kleinschmit of Vision Critical

This blog is co-posted with The Green Book.

With a month to go until the Technology Driven Market Research event in Chicago,we’re in the final stretch of my series of interviews with presenters at the event. Today we have an interview with Matt Kleinschmit, Senior Vice President at Vision Critical.

This interview was conducted as a series of email exchanges over the course of a few weeks; so it is a complete and accurate record of all exchanges.

I’ve been a fan of Vision Critical since 2005. They are a company that is doing an awful lot right in terms of innovation, strategic positioning, and I continue to be impressed by the exceptional quality of their team, the vision of their senior leadership, and their continual focus on innovation. They are aggressively positioning themselves to be a major player in the future market research ecosystem, and frankly I think many firms will have a hard time winning against them; their value proposition is simply far more in alignment with what clients are asking for from us.

I have never met Matt, but I am looking forward to sitting down with him at the TDMR and changing that. I certainly enjoyed our interview, and I think you will as well.

LM: Vision Critical has always excelled at making a big splash and generating a lot of interest within the market research space. Why do you think that is? How is your message more compelling than your competitors?

MK: Vision Critical has a very unique story, having been founded by the son (Andrew Reid) of a renowned Canadian market research pioneer (Angus Reid). Andrew’s expertise in online technology and design, coupled with Angus’s classic survey-based research background have lead to the development of groundbreaking research solutions that leverage technology to engage consumers in a new type of dynamic ongoing dialogue. And as Andrew says, it has also made for some interesting dinner table discussions too! Truth be told, our legacy is a bit outside the norm in terms of typical research companies, and thus we may seem to be a bit ‘different’. But frankly this is what makes us a unique partner, and why our approach to research is an ideal fit for today’s business world’..the ‘ying and yang’ of technology and research are in fact our strengths for solving the unprecedented challenges clients are facing today.

LM: What do you think are the major drivers of change in the market research space right now and how is Vision Critical planning to take advantage of those trends?

MK: In my view there is no doubt that the MR industry in 2020 will be radically different then right now. Traditional ad hoc custom research as we know it is already in decline, and I think this will be nearly extinct in its current form in a decade. The key elements driving this change are rapid advancements in technology/ social media, the speed of client business and the relentless drive to maximize efficiency. These dimensions are pushing our industry to provide more realtime solutions, scalable insight systems and dynamic interactivity with consumers on an ongoing basis (and for less investment). With that said, the constant for MR is that businesses will continue to need to know the ‘why”.the understanding and insight behind the data (which is flowing at an unprecedented pace). With our unique history of technology research innovation, Vision Critical is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these trends. Our groundbreaking Sparq Community Panel research platform, innovative virtual testing systems and dynamic online reporting deliverables are years ahead of our peers, and our researchers and technology developers possess a mindset that fosters the creative application of research and technology to meet client business objectives. Our CEO, Angus Reid, often talks about our core pillars of ‘talent’ and ‘technology’, but our strength resides less in having each, and more importantly in knowing the most effective blend of these pillars for quickly answering the research questions our clients face.

LM: I’ve been a fan of Vision Critical since 2005, especially of your Fusion product suite, and have watched your evolution with interest. It seems that the company has transitioned from a software company to a full service firm with a software division. Is that an accurate description, and if so, has it been difficult to make that change, especially in terms of your overall positioning within the industry?

MK: You are correct in that in our initial years we focused very heavily on technology and software for the research industry ‘ designed and developed in house by researchers for researchers. Our leadership was on the forefront of seeing the opportunity that technology could play in the research process, and frankly, it was not hard to also see that so many other research companies were missing the boat on this. Many of our clients during this time were still looking for full service research support and consultation however, so when we did start adding research divisions to our company (in 2006), it made sense and our clients immediately embraced this move. In terms of difficulty in making this transition, I think there were two areas in which we faced challenges. The first was merging the inherent idiosyncrasies of technology developers and researchers into a cohesive culture that leverages the respective strengths of each. And the second was getting the word out to our clients and the industry at large about the full breadth of our ‘research + technology’ capabilities and the core efficiencies and benefits this combination brings. We have made great strides in both areas, and our current solutions meet both the challenges our clients are facing today, as well as positions Vision Critical to be well suited to addressing fundamental business issues our clients will be facing in the years to come.

LM: I agree with your take on the drivers of change and vision of the future of the industry, but I’m not aware of any efforts by VisionCritical to roll-out mobile or social media solutions as part of your product offering. Can you tell me anything about your strategy as it relates to those technologies?

MK: There is no doubt that both social and mobile (and perhaps more importantly, ‘social mobile’) research solutions will be a key part of the researcher repertoire in the coming years. Our groundbreaking Sparq research platform, which blends turnkey ‘visual questions’, complex sample management and dynamic reporting is currently mobile-compatible, and also allows for seamless integration with social media monitoring. But that is just the tip of the iceberg’we have some truly industry-changing technology in the works, so stay tuned!

LM: Recently VisionCritical ranked as one of the Top 3 MR firms globally ‘perceived to be innovative’ by your peers in the industry. Obviously you’re doing a great job of creating that brand perception within the marketplace, but that also puts a lot of pressure on you to maintain that position. How do you maintain the focus on continual innovation within the organization?

MK: This goes back to our history and how we have evolved from a pure research technology boutique to a truly integrated research + technology consultancy. Quite simply, innovation is our DNA. We have scores of technology developers on staff, and maintain a rigorous and continuous innovation pipeline so that the best emerging technology is blended with our researchers’ vision of how it can be deployed to solve real client challenges. Plus, our corporate culture is very unique and reflects the varied roles and skill sets within our organization. What other research organizations have technology developers, designers, sociologists, statisticians, ethnographers, MBAs, Baysian modelers, usability experts and award winning artists on staff? This fuels a deep culture of experimentation and innovation that is truly unique in the research industry!

LM: That sounds like a wonderful culture, and in my experience you are correct in that it is one that is fairly radically different from most other research firms. Why do you think the market research industry as a whole seems to struggle with embracing business models that support innovation, especially related to human capital strategies?

MK: Great question. I think part of this stems from that idea that classic survey-based research is typically rooted in the social sciences, and as a result many of these organizations simply don’t recognize that they may need these other skill sets within their organization, or if they do, they have trouble integrating them into the traditional research process. For Vision Critical, the integration of research and technology had to be forced ‘ we made a very concerted effort to make this happen. And there were definitely growing pains along the way as we worked to find the correct balance of research and technology in how we approach clients’ business issues. I also think that we as researchers tend to think of our competitive context as only including other research companies, when in fact we are an industry that is facing competitive threats from many adjacent industries, including those that specialize in online behavioral tracking, business intelligence, social media monitoring and rich data-mining. In order to compete on these fronts, the MR industry must rapidly adapt and broaden our skill set. If is simply not good enough to be the best within MR only, we have to be able to compete outside of our industry as well given that some of these other industries are beginning to provide services that have traditionally been found within MR.

LM: What skills do you think are essential for success in the market research space today? Obviously technology acumen is one, but what else? What are the key ‘talent’ characteristics that will be vital for success for MR in the future?

MK: In additional to technology development and application, creativity, curiosity and communication skills will continue to be vital to our industry, as will business management background and solid research fundamentals. As I mentioned earlier, there are many diverse skills that will be required for the market research leaders of tomorrow to prosper, but what will really set companies apart is how they are able to blend these talents into a cohesive solution for their clients. It is that balance that will be most important, really the sum of the individual parts.

LM: I agree that market research is under increasing competitive pressure from other industries, and the recent spate of M&A activity where agencies, social media monitoring providers, and DIY tech suppliers are purchasing MR consultancies clearly show that this trend is only accelerating. Where do you think that is going and which industry do you think poses the greatest competitive threat to the traditional MR space?

MK: The biggest threat to MR is our own ‘silo’ mentality about who our competitive set is. We do not just compete with other MR firms, but also all of the other industries you mention above, as well as business intelligence and social media services in general. The sooner we as an industry acknowledge this and broaden our perspective the more competitive we will be to future threats.

LM: At the Technology Driven Market Research Event you presenting on ‘Online ‘Feeling-based’ Dial Testing ‘ A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding the Emotional Drivers of Content Appeal’; can you tell me a bit more about that and what you hope attendees will get out of it?

MK: Absolutely. We have heard from both content creators and media companies that they are increasingly looking to dig deeper into what emotional levers are driving appeal and engagement with video, advertising and promotional spots. And while traditional dial testing methods have in the past been effective at providing a ‘go/no-go’ measure, they haven’t been the best at including prescriptive diagnostics, and also tend to be costly and time consuming to execute. So we felt that by leveraging technology and advances in online research methods we could help innovate in this area. The result is ‘ReactionPlus’, a groundbreaking online content assessment tool that provides a fast and cost effective method of testing advertisements, promos and other video clips ‘ and allowing our clients to understand the feelings that are driving interest. I will be presenting case studies from 1 -2 marquee media organizations and additional VC-conducted research on research will be used to show how ReactionPlus compares to traditional dial testing and post-viewing assessment methods ‘ with the pros and cons of the various methods compared and analyzed. Results will show how this innovative tool can be employed to capture second by second reaction among broad, nationally representative sample frames, with automated reporting that includes real-time playback allowing for a consistent and easy method of interpreting the results. Attendees will see how an innovative online technology application can be employed to provide accurate and informative moment-by-moment insights into how well video content works; that feelings can be effectively captured and acted upon via a rapid online next generation dial testing technology ‘ providing prescriptive understanding of what content works best, and why; and ultimately, that radical innovation in media content evaluation is possible with creative ‘out-of-the-box thinking’, flexibility to step outside legacy metrics and the right balance of thoughtful research design and innovative technology. I am really looking forward to the session!

LM: That sounds very cool, and it will be interesting to contrast your approach to the Neuromarketing based presentations that will also be taking place at the TDMR. On that note, brands are spending a lot of money on Neuromarketing and other biometric measurement techniques to get to emotional drivers of decision making. How does ‘ReactionPlus’ compare to those approaches and/or where would it fit within the spectrum of ‘emotional measurement’ techniques?

MK: ReactionPlus relies on cognitive expression of emotion rather than precognitive biometric or neuro measurement’so we are simply asking people to tell us how they are feeling while they consume audio or video content. In some respects very similar to dial testing, but with much greater diagnostics on what feelings are most prevalent, and which are driving interest. We have already done some ‘research-on-research’ validation of how ReactionPlus compares with traditional dial testing and the results are similar but much richer in terms of analysis capabilities. We are also considering some side by side testing with biometric or neuro measurement too, but for us these are really very different methodologies. While biometrics/ neuro testing must be conducted in a central location facility and are often quite costly, ReactionPlus is an easy-to-administer online tool that allows for extremely fast data collection at low cost ‘ allowing for rapid testing, refining and retesting of a vast array of content.

LM: What’s next for Vision Critical? Where do you see the company fitting into the research ecosystem in 5 years and what?

MK: Vision Critical is committed to being a leader in the 21st century research industry through an unprecedented blend of visionary technology and critical thinking. We are the only company to have equal parts technology developers, research professionals and user engagement designers. The possibilities with these skill sets are endless, and we plan to methodically reinvent the research process one business issue at a time.

About the Author Leonard Murphy:
Lenny is a seasoned and respected industry leader with an entrepreneurial drive. He has been called a visionary and is renowned as an innovator. He has successfully established several companies in the MR space including Rockhopper Research, a leading full service global research firm and MDM Associates, a MR consulting firm, before founding his current companies: BrandScan 360 and his consulting practice LMC group (www.asklmcg.com). Mr. Murphy is a key consultant and adviser to numerous market research agencies, and works across the industry to drive the development of innovative research practices by developing strategic alliances with multiple ‘best in class’ providers. Lenny serves on the Board of The Market Research Global Alliance, the premier social network for the global MR profession. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Research Industry Trends Monitoring Group & Publisher of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Study, the oldest study in the industry devoted to tracking changing trends in MR. He is on the Advisory Boards of the Festival of NewMR and The Merlien Institute. He is also the Chairman of the IIR Technology Driven Market Research conference. Rounding out his busy professional life, he is the Editor in Chief of the GreenBook Blog. Lenny can be reached at lmurphy@brandscan360.com

Interesting Learnings on “The Experience Generation”

Hello all, it’s been several weeks since I was on hand at TMRE 2008 and had a chance to share with you all my perspectives from the conference. There was so much to participate in, there were still some thoughts I had that I now finally have the chance to share with you all. I had the pleasure of meeting both Tamara Sachs, CEO and Robert Miner, President of SachsInsights at The Market Research Event in October. We posted some details from this presentation before. Their compelling qualitative research work is supplemented with high quality “video storytelling”, and it’s fascinating!

I was fortunate to sit in. So here is a small clip of the workshop Robert Miner gave on “MilleniAdults–the experience generation.”

Mr. Miner mentioned several key points that define this segment:

1) Belief in a Kaleidoscope of Options

2) Definition of Success Varies Across the Segment (financially secure, life experiences, making a difference)

3) Entry Level Debt

4) Online Social Networking

For more video footage of the ethnographic study conducted by SachsInsights, you can visit their website.

Good stuff!!

Uncovering the Mystery of Ethnography

We’d like to welcome a new guest blogger, April Bell. With over 13 years in the marketing and research field, she has worked with many Fortune 100 companies to help clients develop new products, create winning brand positioning, test advertising and packaging ideas, and better understand consumers. Her experience includes consumer package goods, retail, financial services, energy, technology and agriculture with brands like: Procter & Gamble, Tyson, KAO Brands, TXU, Hewlett Packard, Kellogg’s, 7-Eleven and John Deere.April joins us from the The Market Research Event Linked In Group. Her profile can be viewed here. You can also read her blog Qualitative Research Digg here.

Ethnographic research seems to have a lot of buzz these days and still it’s a very mysterious form of research. I receive lots of questions about ethnography so I thought I would spend a few minutes to write a bit about my thoughts on it. The most common questions I get are related to when and why you should conduct ethnography vs. more traditional research ‘.and of course, how do you communicate learnings effectively.

So, here’s to when and why: With ethnography research, you become a part of your target’s real life context. It is probably the most robust form of qualitative research because it is conducted in a respondent’s natural environment. Whether it’s in their home, their work, their play, or all of the above, you learn from respondents at a much deeper level. Their reactions and behaviors are uninterrupted, unfiltered. It creates a more authentic way to observe human behavior, learn about their emotions on a guttural level. You can see their decision making, and that’s powerful, especially when it’s through the lens of a clear learning objective.

When conducting ethnographic research, you are dealing with less simulation and more authentic scenarios. When you watch someone choosing where they are going to have dinner that evening, you receive new insight into the decision making process vs. hearing them tell you why they make their decisions (as you typically would in a focus group setting). Because we as humans have our own subconscious filtering process when we recount what we do, we may leave out details or omit certain pieces. The cool thing about ethnography, on the other hand, is that when you live for a few moments in your target’s world, you become entrenched into who they are and their decision making process’.thus creating true insight.

However, good ethnography takes time and requires careful observation. While most qualitative research is all about what you hear, ethnography is combining what you hear with what you see. Because consumers have many subconscious behaviors and attitudes that will not be revealed in typical research, ethnography highlights these when carefully observed in respondent’s own environment. It reveals the difference between what people say and what they actually do.

Ethnography is ideal when you’re wanting to understand decision making and consumer’s core experiences. It is also great when you need to explore in-depth behaviors, build customer segments or define usage patterns.

So, what do you do with the insight? If you spend the time to do ethnographic research right, the data you have at the end of a project is overwhelming! This becomes a challenge when reporting. One of the best ways to reveal your discoveries to key stakeholders is to create snapshots (or personas). I believe this is a 2-step process. First, you must develop patterns or trends based on the similar consumer attitudes, characteristics or behaviors observed. Second, you can use these patterns to develop personas, which are archetypes of actual consumers. This allows you to blend your learnings into a more vivid example, complete with real name, photo, personality, motivations, etc. It gives those who didn’t experience what you did a more personal encounter.

The attached visuals are an example of building patterns and a persona from some personal ethnographic research (just because it’s what I love to do) on one of my excursions in South America. It is based on several women I spent hours (sometimes days) with in Peru.