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Chauncey Zalkin
                  Ethnography and


 Get honest insights                        might lead you to create a product      The observer’s journey     ...
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Getting Immersive - Real Insights that Mean Something. Innovate the future.


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According to.. Article in the magazine of Spain's Leading Financial Paper by Chauncey Zalkin, brand strategist, ethnographer (qualitative immersive research), writer

Published in: Business, Technology
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Getting Immersive - Real Insights that Mean Something. Innovate the future.

  1. 1. 24#según Chauncey Zalkin Ethnography and communication 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 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.
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  3. 3. 26#según 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 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, 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 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.