Consumer Brands

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Consumer brands’ love affair with ethnography : 

Consumer brands’ love affair with ethnography Sarah Castell Research Director Ipsos MORI

Why? : 

Why? Producer/consumers, user-generated brands, co-creation… consumers expect a direct say in what companies produce Category generic standards very high – benefit only from knowing consumer needs intimately, globally “Moments of identity” Not fixed, immutable preferences; so trad research is limited Ethnography is one of many springboards to creativity Innovation must be two-way, but still create delightful surprises! Reputation: Corporate world and brand world have never been so close

Consumers are changing : 

Consumers are changing Part of a community Brand community? Community of practice? Loose network of acquaintances? Neighbourhood? Ethnicity? Religion? Team? Union? Professional body? Corporate community? Academic community? “Membership” changing…. Waning interest in professional bodies, unions, large-scale affiliations … Linguistic? Behavioural e.g. temporary “people who are getting married this year”

Challenges : 

Challenges Asking the right questions Restrictions on time, high expectations about outputs Imperative for innovation and “usefulness” back in the client’s world – though often not geared up for seeing things differently! How can we preserve the space to think freely … when we need the debrief in 2 weeks? Who wants to know? Brand team, research team, senior management? What will you be doing with the findings?

So we wear even more hats than academics… : 

So we wear even more hats than academics… Probing researchers who “audition” participants… Documentary film makers Video editors Moderators, facilitators Friends to respondents Drinking partners Client liaison and PR Fellow consumers – in our own society

Commercial ethno - a strange beast , not very “pure” : 

Commercial ethno - a strange beast , not very “pure” Events Accretion Narratives Netnography Do it (to) yourself

Best practice requires choice of philosophies : 

Best practice requires choice of philosophies “Leave them as you found them” COVERT observation and analysis Get them involved as active, unmediated participant – OVERT participation in client’s agenda One event Durative process Observer’s paradox? Can create interesting blur between participation and ethnography

Event methods : 

Event methods COVERT observation and analysis OVERT participation in client’s agenda One event Durative process Observation –Accompanied shops, hiding behind shelves Recruit people specially to do something with them Respondents demo their lives to researchers AND clients Researchers live along with subjects Participants go to clients – perhaps for an action planning day; participants become researchers, clients become subjects? Increasingly relevant!

What are event methods good for? : 

What are event methods good for? Don’t frighten the horses Easy and cheap Handy illustration of key demographics Usage experience of physical brand/products For NPD, spot needs quickly, avoid fake usage memories HOWEVER – Researcher still brings many preconceptions Participants put on “social face” We may misinterpret why they are doing something To get beyond this can be expensive

‘Delegator’ : 

‘Delegator’ Janet

Who is she? : 

Who is she? Janet is a divorcee in her fifties who lives alone in a one bedroom starter home (her description) in Egham She works as an administrator in a local hospital, having previously lived abroad for many years She has few friends and little family – significant in that she does not rely on others for ‘free’ help (including DIY) She has no plans to sell the house, and lacks the confidence and budget to fulfil her ambitions for it

What kinds of DIY / HI does she do? : 

What kinds of DIY / HI does she do? Janet took out a loan to buy and install this kitchen She was going to buy from MFI but found a better deal once she found someone to install it for her – he also did the tiling for her, and was very influential in the design For example he suggested this side here was done in a living room wood finish (it faces into the living room) that compared with the painted wood look of the kitchen – she was very impressed by this The previous drawers had been sellotaped together for months – not being able to fix this was a factor in deciding to get a new kitchen

What does she need? : 

What does she need? Janet needs clear and direct marketing. She needs to know that DIY stores can offer her more than just tools and materials She needs in-store face-to-face advice from ‘an older man - not one of the kids’ Perhaps unrealistically, she would like someone to demonstrate how to (for example) use a drill She needs reassurance that the ‘first step’ is within her reach and that there are links between DIY and the softer aspects of HI She needs clear visual diagrams with all products – she cannot cope with wordy leaflets

Accretion methods : 

Accretion methods COVERT observation and analysis OVERT participation in client’s agenda One event Durative process Traces they leave –recycling bins, contents of bags, People take photos, keep diaries Participants search for more traces for us – perhaps online? Iteration – return to the scene, see what changes! Participants carry out analysis – what’s changed? What does it mean? Follow online communities and blogs

What is accretion good for? : 

What is accretion good for? Brand context Ongoing relations with consumers, without marketing jargon Concrete examples of change over time. Bring in semiotics to make one hit work harder for trendspotting Findings need to be analysed and sifted carefully to be useful

Narrative methods : 

Narrative methods COVERT observation and analysis OVERT participation in client’s agenda One event Durative process They interview themselves – pics, vid diaries etc They help you implement results… (beyond ethnography?) INTERVIEWS oral histories They design the interview - Peer research Recorded dialogue, social interactions – customer complaints? They interview others – citizen research

Narratives track subconscious beliefs : 

Narratives track subconscious beliefs

What are narrative methods good for? : 

What are narrative methods good for? Peer and citizen interviewers focus on outcomes for consumers/users, not research outputs… … this is useful, and salutary, for client and agency!

Netnography : 

Netnography The web provides a huge space to reconfigure communication Internet lives are often as rich and complex as “real lives” Many online spaces allow easy access to research subjects and straightforward “covert” observation “De-familiarise” the internet

Slide 20: 

Commercial interests might focus on a number of things… What sort of cultures and communities exist that brands might have a place in? How do consumers operate, view, organise information? How do people follow and reinterpret brands and products online? Following an idea from page to page – how is it organised? What rules govern its use? What makes it coherent? Netnography

Netnography methods : 

Netnography methods Accompanied browsing Investigations located entirely online: Follow traces Observe communities Join communities Contribute to communities

Up and coming techniques? : 

Up and coming techniques? Researcher Client Participant Netnography Consultant participants?

But ultimately… : 

But ultimately…

It’s about the results : 

Squeeze the juice out of the findings Walk-through debriefs Editing meetings Knowledge management and wikis Booklets Continued engagement through panels and meetings with participants It’s about the results

Slide 25: 

Thank you For further information contactsarah.castell@mori.com on 020 7347 3263

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