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Ethnographic Market Research Toolbox

For many ethnographic market research projects, we also include specific methodological and interpretive exercises that complement and enhance the consumer insights generated from the core contextual interviews and observations.

A few of these follow below:

Self-Documetation Exercises

Self-documentation exercises help in capturing how specific brands, products, and services fit into the daily and weekly rhythms of consumers' lives.

Although ethnographic interviews and observations typically are longer in duration than other qualitative interviews, they still only provide direct access to a certain slice in time of the consumers' lives.

With the use of small video camera and guidance from us about relevant topics and events to record, consumers capture themselves as they are immersed in specific activities across multiple days.

They also record confessional video segments in which they discuss their perceptions, feelings, and frustrations about certain experiences, including what preferences they would have for an enhanced product or service experience.

Projective Workbooks

Projective workbooks not only help in discovering consumers' unconscious, non-linear, and emotional associations to brands, products, and services, but they also are important tools for explicating certain consumer needs that may otherwise resist articulation.

Because consumers complete their projective workbooks prior to the ethnographer's arrival to conduct fieldwork, the exercises are a useful way of "warming up" consumers—prompting them to reflect on key research topics in ways that lead to more thoughtful feedback during the ethnographic research that follows.

Narrative Inquiry

Consumers commonly process information about their world, as well as endow it with meaning, through narrative constructs or stories. Brand stories gain a certain directive force as consumers integrate brands into conceptualizations of their own social identities—who they are and how they came to be that way.

Thus, narrative inquiry, eliciting and interpreting consumer stories, is a critical component of any ethnographic project.

Consumer Taxonomies

Consumer taxonomies, or classification systems, expose how customers conceptually slice up particular product and service areas.

Identifying how people intuitively organize those areas in their minds, as well as pinpointing where a particular brand fits within that framework, has substantial explanatory power for understanding consumer experiences.

In delineating these taxonomies, we often integrate certain exercises, such as pile sorting and frame elicitation, into our ethnographic market research projects.

Qualitative Methods

Ethnography is just one type of qualitative research. We also excel in conducting a broad range of "traditional" qualitative methodologies, including focus groups, individual in-depth interviews (IDIs), and telephone in-depth interviews (TDIs) for many different types of consumer and marketing research projects.  



The cornerstone of the ethnographic approach involves the researcher engaging in "participant-observation" in contexts native to the people being studied. This means that the ethnographer both observes and interviews respondents in their familiar settings and in the more natural flow of their everyday activities—where they live, work, eat, groom, shop, receive care, socialize, play, etc.