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The Ethnography of Marketing

A software tool allows researchers to study human behaviors and plot them along dimensions that reveal product and service needs

The new core competency is ethnography. Companies use it to gain insights into the culture and behavior of their customers. But the demands of business are different from those of an anthropologist doing field research. The most obvious is speed. Where anthropologists may take years to do one study, businesses need results in weeks.

The other difference is scope. Global corporations need detailed consumer data from dozens of cultures. In China, the coast and desert, north and south, have different cultures. In India, there are over 100 languages, dozens of castes, and major differences in religion. Companies must gather and compare huge amounts of information.