case study

Creating a Creators’ Market: How Ethnography Gave Intel a New Perspective On Digital Content Creators

KEN ANDERSON Intel Corporation SUSAN FAULKNER Intel Corporation LISA KLEINMAN LogMeIn, Inc. JAMIE SHERMAN Intel Corporation This case demonstrates how ongoing ethnographic research from within a corporation led to the re-segmentation of a market. The first part of the case focuses on how a team of social science researchers at a major technology company, Intel, drew on past research studies to develop a point-of-view on the increasing importance of content creation across a range of populations that challenged the findings of a quantitative market sizing study. Drawing on earlier qualitative work, the team was able to successfully argue for the value of ethnographic research to augment these findings and to show how research participants’ orientations toward technology constituted a more significant, and more actionable way of segmenting this new market than professional status, the differentiator used in the quantitative study. The second half of the case highlights the process of driving business change from within...

“Thinking Outside the Camp”: Education Solutions for Syrian Refugees in Jordan

SARAH LEBARON VON BAEYER ReD Associates Case Study—This paper presents a case study of a project on education solutions for Syrian refugees in Jordan conducted between 2015-2017. First, it describes how ReD's methodological approach provided a unique perspective to studies on refugees. By immersing a team in the day-to-day lives and settings that most Syrian refugees experience in Jordan—i.e., outside of camps and in people's actual homes—ReD led its client to “think outside the camp,” something that relief agencies and companies often fail to do due to the refugee camp model of humanitarian assistance that, ever since WWII, has dominated the approach to refugees. Second, as a result of its unique methodological approach, ReD uncovered important findings about social networks and technology use and access in Syrian refugees’ homes and communities that ultimately shaped the client's perspective on solution development. For example, ReD's team of ethnographers found that nearly all out-of-camp Syrian households had...

The Lifecycle of a Washing Machine: Transforming the Customer Experience for a Home Appliance Manufacturer

BETH KELLEY Doblin, Deloitte Consulting LLP JENNIFER BUCHANAN Doblin, Deloitte Consulting LLP Case Study—This case study explores a customer experience transformation strategy and development research project run by Deloitte for a multinational U.S.-based home appliance manufacturing company. It explores the shift in strategy and approach for the company based on the team's digital ethnographic research, as well as applying the ethnographic method to a non-traditional data source (digital and social media). Part one lays out the background on the client and the team and challenge proposed by the client. Part two lays out the details of the team's methodology and process of evaluating social data using ethnographic and other qualitative and quantitative methods. Part three reflects on the findings of the research and how these differed substantially from the client's assumptions. Part four evaluates the contribution the digital-based research made in providing a new perspective on the enterprise's customer experience strategy...

The Inhuman Condition: How Research Unlocked New Perspectives on Psoriasis and Began to Change how it’s Understood and Treated

SARAH KELLEHER Truth Consulting Case Study—This case study highlights the value of exploring the reality of having and treating psoriasis. Its aim is uncovering why it is that, despite treatments being available that offer transformative results, people with psoriasis can continue to live in isolation and with feelings of shame. If clear skin alone isn't enough, what is it that can help create a sense of well-being? Even undertaking a piece of work like this represented a significant step forward for the pharmaceutical industry where, historically, investing in this kind of deep patient insight work hasn't been common and where getting buy-in to the outputs is far from certain. How can sight lines be created and developed, particularly from physicians to patients? Explored in this case study are not only the ethnographic and other methodologies used, but also: some of the challenges in bringing together this encompassing piece of work; the strategies and efforts made to ensure that core audiences engaged with the research;...

Imagining a Gym for the Spirit, Mind, and Body for the 21st Century

ALEJANDRO JINICH Gemic Case Study—This case explores a research and consulting engagement whose goal was to build an investment case for a new type of 21st century gym for the spirit, mind, and body. The client, a group of well-funded U.S. entrepreneurs, wanted to design and launch a venture that would be positioned to serve the emerging spiritual needs of the proximal future (2-15 years). While the founders were themselves involved in meditation, belief-dependent realism, and a loose collection of westernized oriental and mystic practices and beliefs, they had not yet defined the venture's specific offering. They suspected that (a) the dominant sociocultural climate of rationalism (e.g. rationalized life choices/paths derived from rationalized worldviews, disengaged relationship with the body and emotion, cynically-motivated wealth creation, etc.) and the lack of embodied and experience-based decision-making and living practices were at the core of a generalized social malaise, and that (b) decoding it and designing a venture...

Changing the Perspective of Government

EMMA SAUNDERS Empathy MAILYNN STORMON-TRINH Empathy STEPHANI BUCKLAND Previously Empathy Case Study—This case study highlights the value of ethnography in changing a client's perspective. New Zealand's productivity has been deceasing, and the government wants to reverse that trend. Empathy's government client believed that macro-level forces were having a major impact on the productivity of small businesses, and wanted to suggest ways for small businesses to directly combat those forces. Empathy conducted ethnographic research, and the results required the client to change their perspective. While the government client saw increased productivity as a means to increase the standard of living, ethnographic research revealed some small businesses see increased productivity as a threat to their values and standard of living. If the government wanted to increase productivity, they were going to have to change tact completely and start talking to and supporting small businesses in a way that took their fears, motivations, beliefs...

It’s Not Childs’ Play: Changing Corporate Narratives Through Ethnography

ANNE MCCLARD Intel Corporation THÉRÈSE DUGAN Facebook (formerly Intel Corporation) Case Study—After discovering that there were over 25 projects going on in various business units in the company that involved children as end users, and that most people had a limited understanding of children's play, the researchers proposed a multi-cultural ethnographic project called ChildsPlay. This case study illustrates the many ways that a well-planned ethnographic study can influence the trajectory of a company's culture, highlighting institutional challenges, describing the ethnographic methods and theoretical underpinnings that guided the research and its analysis, and touching upon the importance of play as an anthropological focal point. The case study closes with a discussion of a notable shift in the narrative around Intel's child-focused product efforts, and the tangible outcomes of the research with respect to product development....

No One Reason for It: Workforce Diversity, Cultural Complexity, and Staff Retention at BMW MINI

FIONA MOORE Royal Holloway University of London This case study is based on an ethnographic investigation conducted in 2003 at the BMW Plant Oxford automobile factory focusing on issues of staff retention. The study found that the workforce, as well as being diverse in conventional terms, was also divided in less immediately identifiable ways, and different groups within the workplace had quite different expectations from the experience or working there, and a programme to overcome these problems was developed....

Bringing Attention to Problem Solving and Meaningfulness at Work: How Ethnography Can Help Answer Difficult Business Questions

CAROLE CHARLAND Sapiens Strategies Inc. KAREN HOFMAN Sapiens Strategies Inc. A local division of a multinational manufacturer was experiencing declining enagagement and perceptions of leadership (measured in employee satisfaction surveys). In anticipation of coming waves of organizational change, they asked the research team to explore how “nostalgia” may be contributing to these issues and how they might define the unique culture of the division. Combining ethnographic observations with other qualitative methods, across all levels and departments of the plant, the team uncovered other, more critical issues. Having built a trusting relationship with senior management of the plant, the team used extensive work sessions to help them to understand issues from employee perspectives. This new empathy was conveyed during validation session that spurred initiatives to address a variety of isssues that had been contributing to the problems that initially spurred the project....

“Delivering the Secret Sauce”: Culture and Identity in a Corporate Merger

BARRY DORNFELD Principal, The Center for Applied Research, Inc. This case study explores work around a merger designed to bring together two firms of different scale, history, and identity in the hospitality industry – a large global conglomerate purchasing a small American boutique brand – while keeping the boutique company's customer- and design-centric culture. It looks at mergers as salient situations for surfacing issues around organizational culture, as companies often come together across multiple differences and brings culture to the surface. CFAR, a management consulting firm, was brought in to understand the cultural differences and challenges the merger created, and help build bridges between the two companies to sustain the boutique's culture in the service of business performance and growth....

Outside the Bubble: How a Coastal Technology Company Built Empathy for Its Small Business Owner Customers in America’s Heartland

KATHERINE LEE Square, Inc. This case examines an effort by San Francisco-based Square to gain a better understanding of its customers who reside outside of major metropolitan areas. The first part of the case provides detail on research: a mobile ethnography study of small business owners conducted over a two-week period at the end of 2016 followed by in-person interviews of a select group of participants. The second half offers a discussion of the research findings, including the attributes and perspectives shared by small business owners. The research and analysis suggest that the sense of community in small towns colors every facet of small business, from the deep connections that proprietors feel with their customers, other business owners, and their community as a whole. The commercial and social aspects of businesses in small towns can't be separated. Often, businesses act as a force that helps keep the community viable. Moreover, the needs of small business owners in the heartland differs from their counterparts in larger...

Developing Socially Acceptable Autonomous Vehicles

ERIK VINKHUYZEN Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley MELISSA CEFKIN Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley Case Study—Recognizing that the movement of cars on the road involves inherently social action, Nissan hired a team of social scientists to lead research for the development of autonomous vehicles (AVs) that engage with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other cars in a socially acceptable manner. We are expected to provide results that can be implemented into algorithms, resulting in a challenge to our social science perspective: How do we translate what are observably social practices into implementable algorithms when road use practices are so often contingent on the particulars of a situation, and these situations defy easy categorization and generalization? This case study explores how our cross-disciplinary engagements have proceeded. A particular challenge for our efforts is the limitations of the technology in making observational distinctions that socially acceptable driving necessitates. We also illustrate...

Finding a Voice in Opiate Addiction: Identifying the Role of Caregivers in the Recovery Process for VIVITROL

GAVIN JOHNSTON InTouch Solutions Case Study—Opiate addiction is a significant public health crisis. In the past year, it has become a hot topic at all levels, including the political realm ahead of the presidential election. Triggers, treatment options and restrictions, the criminal justice system, and costs to society are all part of the discussion but the cultural milieu in which addiction occurs is poorly understood. This was a significant problem for our client, the maker of a monthly injectable that inhibits the ability of an addict to get high. Our client, basing their marketing strategy entirely on quantitative data, realized that they needed to get a deeper understanding of addiction and the roles caregivers, friends, and family play in the treatment and recovery cycle. Our team convinced our client, who was inherently nervous about executing qualitative work, that in order to create a meaningful marketing plan, they needed to understand the complexities at a deeper level than data could provide. Working with the client...

Have You Heard? Using Place-Based Ethnography to Construct a Word-of-Mouth Campaign in the Bottom of the Pyramid

JENNIFER GIROUX ReD Associates ZUNG NGUYEN ReD Associates Case Study—The “bottom of the pyramid” concept has promised companies that they can simultaneously create wealth and social impact when serving the world’s poorest customers. In reality, companies have faced multiple challenges when trying to acquire and retain customers in the “bottom of the pyramid”. This case study captures the journey of one such company that is operating low-cost private schools in slums and remote villages in an African country. Despite delivering a solid educational quality, the company was facing retention issues, and was struggling to maintain a healthy student population. Leadership diagnosed that a word of mouth marketing campaign would be important to increase acquisition and retention; but it did not know where to start. By designing a place-based ethnographic approach, ReD was able to gain the customer centric insights needed to design a new value proposition and engagement model that tapped into and leveraged word-of-mouth social...

Plus Size Fashion: What Happens when Stereotypes, Fueled by Popular Culture, Creep into a Retailer’s Business Decisions?

MEG KINNEY Bad Babysitter HAL PHILLIPS Bad Babysitter Case Study—This case demonstrates the power of video as a data collection tool and a storytelling approach to the presentation of research findings. Fresh Produce Clothing specifically selected Bad Babysitter as a consulting partner for their expertise in video-based ethnography and narrative style of delivery. The case begins with contextualizing a business with an imperative to evolve and an organizational culture that was not aligned. The locus of the debate was the Plus Sized shopper – a consumer segment that put interpretation of hard data by headquarters at odds with impassioned anecdotal inputs from the field. Video offered a visceral way to get past conjecture and “bring her into the room”. The primary benefit to the brand was the immediacy for translating learning into actionable insights and consensus on the way forward. The revenue impact was dramatic: leadership took a 180-degree turn from phasing the Plus shopper out to investing in her....