‘Ethnography’ is now a standard term in the consumer researcher’s vocabulary. Companies and advertisement agencies working across industries have been alerted to the research technique’s superiority over the focus group. It is often said that the focus group does not allow us to see consumers in their natural settings where they can be observed as well as questioned about their relationship to a particular product. Increasingly then, market researchers have been doing ethnography: visiting consumers in their homes, in their kitchens, and in somewhat more extreme instances, in their bathrooms (researching the satisfactions of frilly soaps).
As you can imagine, this approach is usually a fruitful source of new insights. However, anthropology (and the practice of observing, or ethnography) is more than a body of sexy techniques. It is also a discipline of ideas about culture. For an anthropologist, studies of American purchase patterns and product uses are not just studies of behavior; they are studies of key cultural ideas as these are represented and symbolized in the products that populate our homes and the services we use. Unearthing these cultural ideas requires training in the discipline of cultural anthropology (the study of cultural systems), and a related capacity for empathy: the art of withholding one’s own assumptions and putting oneself in the shoes of the persons under study.
At Maschio Consulting research and analysis is conducted exclusively by trained anthropologists making us uniquely suited to study the underlying cultural motivations that drive human behavior and to deliver compelling, highly creative advertising and business recommendations.