Getting Immersive - Real Insights that Mean Something. Innovate the future.
Derived from the discipline of anthropology,
ethnography goes deeper to reveal real habits,
unmet needs and new business opportunities like
never before. Introducing a tool to cut through
the maze of confusion in a new marketplace.
Fotografía Lluís Bernat, BPMO photo
Estilismo Rosa Baldrich
I n the fall I presented an eth-
nography seminar in Barcelona.
During the session, I relayed
subjectivity and flexibility is crucial
to the value of this kind of work.
My own history with ethnography
I gained the discipline to trans-
form fresh insights into strategic
positioning, it was a struggle to
stories of media-producing eleven emerged quite by accident. In get the powers-that-be to give
year olds, rap industry insid- 1999 after getting a degree in cul- much credence to my immersive
ers who vehemently denied the tural studies from the New School approach.
validity of one client’s research, with a thesis on Vogue Magazine It’s a tough sell, proselytizing free
and stuffed animal nostalgia that and a few editorial jobs, I started flowing research methods when
offered insight into grown up a pre-blog era website called the marketing department needs
identity. It was a mixed bag to say Girlonthestreet.com where I numbers, measurement, and
the least. But that’s what I do; I published an obsessive list of the proof; but that is precisely why
wade through the messy reality of deals swarming around the tech ethnography is a discipline that
contemporary life in order to find and media sector and combined serves marketing, development,
the nuances that offer opportunity those with observations from the and operations, all at the same
and change. streets of New York. I was driven time - and is a case for why these
areas should work more closely
The key of This Type of research are: together. Discovery leads to in-
become a parTicipanT; be aware of sights. Insights lead to action and
your own subjecTiviTy; lisTen wiThouT prejudice measurable testing - much easier
to do in small doses in today’s
Ethnography comes from an- by a desire to connect the dots. manufacturing and communica-
thropology. It’s a kind of research Over time I amassed a following tions environment - and in the
writing where the author priori- of likeminded creative young en- end, all parties from the consum-
tizes open discovery over proving trepreneurial women and a social er to the board of directors can
a predetermined theory. The end network. Marketing firms and ad gain clarity and renewed focus.
product should take the viewer agencies caught on. They hired The key three principles of this
on a journey instead of providing me to dig for insights and trans- type of research, boiled down,
the client with one big rational late them into business terms. are: become a participant; be
conclusion. Against most tradi- Eventually I became an account aware of your own subjectivity;
tional market research protocol, planner at ad agencies and while listen without prejudice.
Get honest insights might lead you to create a product The observer’s journey lary that was most natural for the
The benefit of unfiltered observa- like the guys at Jamba Juice did When you embark on ethnogra- group we spent time with.
tion is that you can see things – a healthy delicious smoothie phy, make sure you are record- We’ve experienced a sea change
that people are simply unable to with energy boosters available at ing not only your observations, in the way we live. As our frame-
tell you about their behavior. For convenient, hip, and clean Jamba but also your changing thoughts work continues to splinter into
instance, someone in a focus Juice locations all over the U.S. and feelings. An ethnographer finer threads of communication
group might tell you they sit down It’s a lunch you can have in transit should be part of the research and stimuli, we have to look at
with a salad every day at noon but or at your desk. Or you could and be transformed by it. For a the market as an ever-flowing
spend time with them, and before create a food storage system with loungewear brand targeted to continuum of give and take. We
you know it they’re wrist-deep in a chilled component, or compact young women and older teens, have to stop thinking ‘us’ and
a bag of french fries exiting a Mc- healthy meals to eat on the go, I researched the role of stuffed ‘them’. That old divide no longer
Donalds drive-through window. and so on. Ethnography is a way animals because it tied into exists. We have to look at our
When people get comfortable, to find out how people really live the iconography of the brand. consumers as the people they
they start to be themselves. They with existing products. Most often I gathered a group of young are instead of as the bottom line
might intend to eat a sit-down products have a second life not in- trendsetters and opened up or a demographic that will re-
meal every day and really think tended by the manufacturer. Keep the exploration. What emerged spond to a message. The social
that’s what they do but the reality your eyes open for discoveries. was an interesting connection network universe is an ideal place
could be far different. This insight Then, and only then, is it really le- between childhood nostalgia and to start.
gitimate for you to start to develop young adult romance. I explored
your theories and test them. how cuteness becomes sensual- Expect the unexpected
So how do we get there? How ity and what that meant for the Take a highly successful teen
do we get inside? First you find equity of the brand. This led to anti-tobacco campaign for ex-
the right people. Be as strate- rich storytelling opportunities that ample. It had been awhile since
gic about this process as any lent depth to the brand. they’d done any teen research
other. Not just any subject will The purpose of ethnography is and they weren’t sure they really
do. Small samples are encour- not to justify a preconception, nor needed to. Psychologically, teens
aged. It’s quality and depth, not is it to rationalize a company’s are not that different decade
quantity and breadth, that count. existence. If you try to push an after decade. But culturally,
Find insiders who are articulate, agenda, it’s a waste of time. For they absolutely are. I picked ten
dynamic, and demonstrative. You a classic men’s fashion brand, teens from around the U.S., boys
and girls from 11 to 17 years of
abouT... chauncey Zalkin you’d be surprised how much people age. I asked the kids to keep a
Chauncey Zalkin is an ethnographer, wanT To share wiTh you if you show sincere daily diary of all of their media
brand strategist, and freelance writer.
She attended Bennington College and curiosiTy and respecT for differences and technology activities for one
the New School for Social Research week and to observe two of their
in New York and graduated in 1996. can find them through natural a trip around the U.S. brought friends in the process.
In 1999, she founded the Webby no- networks, through recruitment out the insight that your average What I got back was robust, reve-
minated Girlonthestreet.com covering
companies who will pinpoint the ‘Joe’ between the ages of 28-35 latory, and visually rich material.
trends from the street while providing
insights for advertising and marketing people leading purchases and working in middle management First off, everyone was obvi-
clients before becoming a senior brand cultural shifts, or through an eth- with traditional expectations for ously technology obsessed. The
strategist and resident trends expert nographer who has the resources marriage and job advancement sixteen and seventeen year olds
at Crispin Porter + Bogusky and MFP,
to do both. is just not comfortable with the sent a lot of texts, downloaded a
leading strategy on brands as diverse
as Coca-Cola, Perry Ellis, Victoria’s After you’ve found your group, amount of pressure being put lot of music, and put pictures on
Secret, truth, L’Oreal, and Louisiana open your mind and be humble. on him to be fashionable too. Facebook. But it became clear
Pacific lumber. What Women Make, You’d be surprised how much We looked at how this could be that the younger kids were the
www.whatwomenmake.com, is her
newest project and an evolution of her people want to share with you if an opportunity to relate to men, most active producers of digital
continued dedication to showcasing you show sincere curiosity and re- however uncomfortable it was to content. The boundary between
female designers and creative entre- spect for differences. An ethnog- present to the client. The result producers and consumers was
preneurship around the world. If you
rapher goes in one end somewhat was a campaign unlike any other blurring and it was evident in just
want to learn more, you can contact
her at email@example.com. blank and comes out the other men’s fashion campaign out the span of one teen generation.
end full of new information. there, one that used the vocabu- The future is theirs.