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...
by GERALD LOMBARDI
Interest in the unconscious and the instinctual has been on the ascent for several years now in many research realms that EPIC members inhabit. In consumer research particularly, where I’ve been a practicing anthropologist for years, the findings of neuroscience, cognitive science and the brand of social psychology called behavioral economics have driven an upsurge of interest in what lies below the surface of overt action. They all promise new ways to explain why people do what they do, and have provoked a sizable shift in research methods and goals. The consequences of this for our understanding of people have not been all good. The consequences for society are downright scary. I’ll explain; but first, some background.
How We Got Here
The underlying science behind this change in perspective is a set of still-emerging findings about how the brain works, how behavior in social contexts is genetically and physiologically influenced, and the role of evolutionary pathways in determining our mental structures....
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...
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...
JOHN F. SHERRY, JR.
Herrick Professor of Marketing, Mendoza College of Business, and Professor of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame
JOHN W. SHERRY
Director, User Experience Innovation Lab, Intel Corporation
John F. Sherry, Jr. is Herrick Professor of Marketing at the University of Notre Dame. He has researched, lectured, and consulted around the globe on issues of brand strategy, experiential consumption, and retail atmospherics. He is widely published and a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology. He is a past President of both the Association for Consumer Research and the Consumer Culture Theory Consortium, and a former Associate Editor of the Journal of Consumer Research. His most recent book is Resurgence: The Four Stages of Market-Focused Reinvention (with Gregory S. Carpenter & Gary F. Gebhardt). Read more about John, his take on the future of ethnography in business, and why he thinks pathmaking is more like bushwhacking for academics and...
EPIC Profiles Series
by PAUL OTTO
EPIC2016 Keynote Speaker John F. Sherry is the Raymond W. & Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Marketing in the Mendoza College of Business and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Join John at EPIC2016!
I caught up with Dr. John F. Sherry, joint professor in Marketing and Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, in late spring, right after exams. John has had a prolific career in ethnography as a practitioner and theorist, with 10 books, over 100 articles, and numerous consulting engagements to his name. He is a collaborative scholar, and quick to point out others’ influence on his work—Sidney Levy, Joel Cohen, William Wilkie, H. Russell Bernard, Marvin Harris, and more.
In addition to his work on brand strategy and consumer behavior (among his many distinctions, John is past president of the Consumer Culture Theory Consortium), John has had “a long term investment in placeways—retail, atmospherics, that kind of thing,” which he says resonates with...
AMY MAISH and MAGDA WESOLKOWSKA
The bivocal approach is a systematic research and strategy framework that leverages marketing professionals’ and social scientists’ unique perspectives in order to develop brand, consumer and cultural insights relevant to the business challenge. Thus allowing all voices to be heard equally and clearly: that of the social scientist and the marketing professional, that of culture, consumer and brand. It results in an explanation for the forces at play on the brand or business questions and acts as a cultural GPS for the brand. The explanatory nature and consistent connection between brand, consumer and culture allow for a highly grounded, and we would assert, more powerfully informed set of actions, including, when, how, and why brands/products are used or could be used by consumers....
NICOLAS DUCHENEAUT, NICHOLAS YEE and VICTORIA BELLOTTI
In recent years, many ethnographers have conducted participant observation studies in virtual worlds, whether in games like World of Warcraft or user-generated environments like Second Life. However, the acceptance of digital fieldwork as a legitimate form of ethnography does not make it strictly identical to its physical counterpart. In particular, the logistics of virtual ethnography offer both opportunities and pitfalls that practitioners must address. The virtual nature of the space also compounds traditional issues such as generalizability and coverage. In this paper, we will highlight several interesting opportunities and challenges in conducting ethnography in virtual worlds. Moreover, we will then argue that the common problems shared by quantitative and qualitative social scientists in virtual world research serve to bridge the methodological divide, such that virtual ethnography could be greatly enhanced with the use of computational tools usually more associated with...
This paper takes on the challenge of understanding behaviour change through the lens of anthropology. In the field of market research, the goal is to find the leverage points of emotional connection that will inspire a desired behaviour. But traditional approaches to research have relied on methods that neither capture these triggers of change, nor inspire connection. Alternatively, an approach to research based on rituals induces transformational experiences that by their very definition are grounded in emotional connection. This paper details a framework for ritual-based research, and provides case studies of how and when rituals might be used for gathering market insights. We conclude with recommendations for extending the approach into engagement opportunities and creative executions....
SARAH JS WILNER
Marketers represent a particularly significant class of colleagues that corporate ethnographers must engage with, with a central role both in commissioning fieldwork and converting its findings into marketplace offerings. This paper explores the interaction between the two functions, asking, “What is the relationship between marketing and design ethnography and how does each function inform—or inhibit—the other?” A review of the various streams of academic literature related to marketing’s role in product development and innovation is presented, with particular emphasis on scholars’ growing attention to the cultural context(s) of consumption as well as the use of ethnography in consumer research. Consonant with the 2008 conference theme of (In)Visibility, the paper considers how the divergent perspectives of marketers and corporate ethnographers create mutual tension and can render each discipline “blind” to the value of the other’s work....