“So what can I use Ethnography for in our company?” We got this seemingly broad based and difficult to decipher question at a recent meeting, with a potential client about Ethnography and its benefits. We heard some giggles and sighs from the client team at the question being asked.
Oh but what a wonderful question! Finally we were beginning a conversation that went beyond a desire to get on the Ethnographic bandwagon and cynical questions on method, to asking the right questions.
The prevalent thinking in Asia is that Ethnography in business is to understand consumer/user context and usage or just a better way to get to insights.
Here are different ways we have used Ethnography.
The first two are the more common reasons why firms take on Ethnographic projects.
Beyond this, Ethnographic work has relevance when broad concepts/ areas need to be understood for different reasons e.g. service proposition design. One of our clients was considering a new service proposition in small town India. We needed to understand the concept of ‘Quality of life’ which was going to be the core of the service proposition. We conducted 6 hour sessions with target audience in small town India visiting people in their homes, schools, in the park to understand this idea. From it emerged an understanding of the different dimensions of Quality of life and its meaning. This became the spring board for both marketing and service teams.
Another area where Ethnographic work is useful is branding. A client recently re branded and added in the value of ‘being refreshing’ to its brand. Ethnographic work was conducted to understand what ‘being refreshing’ meant to consumers in their life and subsequently how this can be adopted by the brand in marketing and communications.
And finally, Ethnographic work can play a complementary role in the world of Big Data e.g. to understand those who are not part of Big Data for a comparative analysis to the understand Big Data story itself.