Applied Ethnography

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Applied Ethnography

  1. 1. Applied Ethnography for business and social innovation Bruce Davis July 1st 2010
  2. 2. The New Barn Studios Collective Ethnographic entrepreneur Or entrepreneurial ethnographer?
  3. 3. Zopa.com
  4. 4. And watch this space...
  5. 5. What is ethnography? • Ethnography is a branch of anthropology which studies cultures, and culture, through the experiences of individuals in everyday life. • At its heart is the idea of ‘deep hanging out’ – the idea that to understand a culture you have to immerse yourself in the experience; by being there and doing it. • Its commercial value is now well established for gaining a deep-rooted understanding of the role and value of a brand, service or product experience in the everyday world of the consumer.
  6. 6. Lots of people are doing it... • William Grant & Sons • Bacardi Martini • Electrolux • Unilever • Egg • ZOPA.com • Lloyds TSB • E-ON • M&S Money • HBOS • Orange • Vodafone • Mflow.com • National Rail Enquiries • Boots plc • Public Sector – HMRC – Participle (Social Enterprise) – The Work Foundation – Local Government Social Services – No.10 Downing Street • Creative Agencies – Quickheart Ltd – Imagination – Mother/Naked – Tequila – Michael Wolff • Research Agencies – Intrepid Consultants – GfK – Spinach
  7. 7. The ethnographer’s eye • Shift from viewing consumption as the satisfaction of needs to the search for meaning. • “Product is neutral; usage is social” (Mary Douglas – The World of Goods) • Studying the ‘social life of things’ reveals the implicit meanings and cultural ‘common sense’ of the objects and transactions of everyday life.
  8. 8. Research Methodologies • Participant observation – ‘deep hanging out’ in everyday life, observing people using money and making decisions about money. • Long interviews – free flow conversations • Creative consumer workshops – personal perspectives of people whose job it is to have a point of view on the world. • Focus groups – provocative stimulus to get beneath ‘public’ perceptions and tap into subjective insights.
  9. 9. The value of ‘things’ Functional (What I need) Emotional (What I want to feel) Cultural (Why is it valuable to me?) Focus of ethnography Conventional Qualitative Approaches
  10. 10. Why the difference between Needs and Meaning is important: ¢ 8 per cup $4 per cup Nestlé believed that they had extracted maximum value from a cup of coffee, focussing on the consumer “need” of excellent product delivery. For Starbucks, the cup of coffee itself is only one small part of the deal. The value of the experience is created by the cultural meaning it creates in a consumer’s life.
  11. 11. Consuming meaning
  12. 12. Layers and Codes – signifier and signified
  13. 13. From object to thing Object= -Technology -Rational function -cost ‘Thing’’= -Social meaning -Social practices - Social capital socialisation domestication ritualization Meaning = neutral Meaning = Situational Usage = Social Shift from looking at what a product ‘does’ to what meaning it ‘creates’
  14. 14. Applied Ethnography Case Studies
  15. 15. Context: a social life of money
  16. 16. A quick example “When is an ISA not an ISA?”
  17. 17. A place to create your world of money? objective subjective Growth/fluidity Surplus/Stability Traditional Entrepreneurs Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Personal EntrepreneursDomestic Entrepreneurs Everyday Entrepreneurs Tangible/Place Human/Social Control/Confidence Real alternative
  18. 18. Zopa.com
  19. 19. Loan as gift? Interest as reciprocation?
  20. 20. Cultural catalyst? Cultural medium?
  21. 21. Monkey Shoulder The first ethnographically-inspired whisky
  22. 22. A ‘new world’ Whisky • Ethnographic Insight – ‘Whisky is lacks authentic social currency in public drinking occasions’ • Semiotic Insight – Desire for “remix” of traditional and modern styles rather than wholesale ‘reinvention’. • Outcome – Successful launch with acceptance by both the whisky and style establishment (Both Kate Moss and Noel Gallagher profess to enjoying Monkey Shoulder!).
  23. 23. Packaging Fabric Conditioner as a meaningful cultural experience
  24. 24. From needs to meaning • Ethnographic Insight – Fabric conditioner creates and maintains social relations and values of ‘home’ and ‘motherhood’ • Semiotic Insight – Generous proportions emphasise role of FC as ‘gift’ for the home.
  25. 25. A nudge in the right direction... • Ethnographic insight avoids research being blinkered by internal cultural ‘truths’ and preconceptions. • It helps a business understand where it fits in the everyday life of the consumer (and hence how it is valued in reality). • Ethnography expands the scope of analysis of customers from rational investigation needs to more subjective and fuzzy exploration of context and motivation.
  26. 26. Bruce Davis Freemarket bruce@deep-hanging-out.com www.oikonomics.typepad.com +447747 864472
  27. 27. Recommended reading • Grant McCraken – Chief Culture Officer (latest book) – Culture and Consumption (I & II) – The Long Interview • Zygmunt Bauman – What chance for ethics in a world of consumers? – The “Liquid Modernity” Series – Liquid Life, Liquid Love etc • Viviana Zelizer – The Social Meaning of Money – The Purchase of Intimacy • Keith Hart – The Memory Bank

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