in focus                                                                                                            April ...
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Anthropology news evaluating sensory experience


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Anthropology news evaluating sensory experience

  1. 1. in focus April 2009 • Anthropology News Evaluating Sensory Experience thoughtful reasoning for responses. By directing market- self-Reporting consumers and commercial fieldwork ing strategies and media tactics to reach consumers on indi- vidualized, personal and sensory TimoThy de Waal malefyT time to multi-media across all ture (such as Malcolm Gladwell’s lines, marketers and advertisers BBdo WorldWide and Parsons/ sensorial dimensions. book Blink) discusses the power of are restructuring a new marketing neW school As these trends reveal an trusting immediate bodily im-pres- reality for consumers—one in increased use of technology in sions over rational thought. This which consumers participate in This article explores the rise of research to gather immediate season’s TV programs “Lie to Me” producing a body of knowledge marketing to consumers’ multisen- consumer responses to brand and “The Mentalist” extol detec- through instant responses using sory experience. This occurs in two and product use, they also indi- tive work that reads body signals personal technologies. This occurs mutually interactive ways. Many and sensations in parallel to the marketing of new research companies in the field of over what people modes of sensory consumption consumer marketing today employ report on their to suit consumers’ individualized a variety of multisensory methods own. By using tastes, as self-reported. These prac- to understand the consumer expe- fast technology tices allow marketing and adver- rience of their clients’ brands and to receive and tising to produce cultural meanings products. These methods include relay informa- that build on the self as the private the use of cell phones, blogs, video tion directly site of consumption. We also cameras and disposable cameras, to researchers witness in this how new commu- among other tools. Consumers and consumers, nication technologies change with are recruited in research to use marketers believe consumer tastes, from a cerebral these devices and report back their they bypass the reading culture to a more visceral own sensations and experiences rational guarded audiovisual-kinetic culture, where when using a product or brand mind and access the immediate interplay of images, in everyday life. Research compa- truer “gut” re- sounds and graphics are central nies then collect and analyze these sponses through to a cultural system that supports data and present their findings immediate reac- the self. to corporate clients. Such use of Malefyt talking to a consumer about running for a sports tions and sensory What does the rise of multisen- equipment company. Photo courtesy Elaine Epstein consumers in research indicates the feedback. sory consumer research and instan- rise of technology-based individual cate the increased engagement of taneous self-reporting consumer self-reporting, and it also shows a consumers through technolog- Reason is out, Emotions Are in behavior mean to modes of ethno- growing interest among marketers ical devices to convey advertised According to Catherine Lutz, graphic enquiry and forms of anal- in understanding the sensory and messages. This reflects a new western belief holds that physical ysis, and where does this situate the emotional responses of consumers perspective on consumers that sensations of the body link directly role of the modern ethnographic to everyday brand experiences. reprioritizes direct multisensory to human emotions, whereas practitioner? How do multisensory This trend of collecting marketing over mass marketing, thought and reason are perceived media create new challenges to consumer experiences echoes with personal technology as the as pure mental phenomena. interpreting fieldwork? How is the another dynamic in marketing: vehicle, and the sensorial body This notion supports marketing work of interpretation produced selling products and brands as the site for consumption. But experts who now claim that the through these new media and tech- through multisensory advertising. what does the use of self-reported failure of traditional marketing nology? These and other questions Notably, marketers are moving consumer feedback mean for approaches is due to overesti- raise challenges to both practicing away from unidirectional, gener- (and in relation to) the kinds of mating the reasoning power of anthropologists in the fields of alized mass approaches that push knowledge that trained practi- consumers, and ignoring the way consumer research and academics advertising messages, in prefer- tioners produce through ethno- consumers actually think and feel interested in consumption, as new ence for more interactive, direct graphic research? about making decisions. If people modes of being, produced by fast and immediate approaches that buy with their gut feelings not technologies and sensory brands, engage consumers personally new Marketing Tactics: The with their reason, then the surest reveal a changed landscape by through PDAs, Internet, direct sensory Body way to connect with consumers which we understand and relate to marketing and event sponsor- Implicit in this marketing shift is the is through their bodies. The each other. ship. For instance, online and belief that mass marketing via tradi- viral marketing through cell tional means of heavy texts and c o M M E n TA Ry phones and online games is the generalized messages is less effective fastest growing part of many than personally directing ads through rapid rise of sensorial marketing Timothy de Waal Malefyt is vice ad budgets. This dynamic indi- the senses and the body. This places approaches in the last decade is president and Director of Cultural cates a seismic shift in thinking: the sensorial, emotive body as a new witnessed in car manufacturers Discoveries at BBDO Worldwide media and marketing companies site of consumption over the cold, who focus on the sound of the advertising agency, leading an in- once regarded consumption as a rationalizing mind. In this view, car’s doors closing, or Singapore agency ethnographic practice. He also linear and sequential process that consumer responses gleaned from Airlines’ patented “warm towel” teaches advertising, design research moved from newsprint to radio surveys, focus groups and even stan- smell, or even Harley Davidson’s methods, and consumerism and to TV programs. Driven in part by dard ethnographic interviews are attempt to market its throaty shopping as an adjunct professor trends of consumers who multi- perceived as more rational, calcu- motorcycle roar. Marketing to at Parsons New School for Design. task while using their computers, lated and less “truthful” than unfil- the senses is perceived as natu- Malefyt is co-editor of Advertising video game consoles, cell phones tered “raw” responses of consumers rally more personal and individ- Cultures (2003). He can be contacted and PDAs, media exposure has spontaneously reacting to branded ually focused than heavy textual at or changed from one-media-at-a- stimuli. Indeed, popular litera- images that require reading and 17