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December 18th, 2009

Start Eavesdropping.

By Kathy Worcester, Senior Research & Brand Strategist

As a researcher, I’m constantly on the hunt for my next nugget of information. Often times, this leads me to eavesdropping on other people’s conversations or carefully watching how they migrate through a store aisle. While fascinating for me, this habit can be rather unnerving for some and downright irritating for my friends and family.

This type of casual observation can be incredibly helpful to better understand how an average consumer approaches everyday tasks. From the lady in the grocery store who thoroughly evaluates her selection of frozen fish sticks to the student who chooses a vitaminwater for the “nutritional value,” these casual observations (and nosy questions) can help inform additional research or provide the agency with insights to ponder.

While traditionally used within the social sciences (particularly anthropology and sociology), ethnography—the practice of observing and interviewing people (or consumers, if you’re a marketer)—is an important part of knowing, understanding, and surrounding your audience.  It’s how we uncover the difference between what people say they do (go to church on Sunday), and what they actually do (Browns tailgate, anyone?). If you’re intrigued, check out the Journal for the Study of Cultural Anthropology.
So the next time you need some information, inspiration, or a better understanding of your brand experience, just hit the streets—and maybe bring your camera. You never know what you might uncover.

Here’s a great example: Check out the Abercrombie & Fitch Shopping Experience. What do you think—teen store or nightclub?

How’s This For Ethnography?

It’s a couple months old, but definitely worth repeat viewing … Volkswagen’s Piano Stairs – The Fun Theory

Nicely done, Stockholm.