By: Sara Beauchaine, Marketing Associate
On April 20th at 1:00 pm, Morpace is offering a free webinar hosted by our own expert anthropologist, Erica Ruyle to uncover some uncommon market research methods that can be used to derive impactful insights. During this webinar, attendees will learn to look at research differently, find out how to apply the anthropological mindset to qualitative research and learn how to add another layer of depth and insight into the analysis process.
Morpace also offers other avenues for qualitative research. You can learn more about our market research methods by visiting our website.
Q: How does anthropology play a role in market research? To what extent?
Erica: Within market research (MR), our clients are always trying to understand the ‘essence’ of the consumer. They want to understand what makes consumers tick and in what ways they can continue to meet their needs. Anthropologists study people and look for patterns. They look holistically at all the elements that make people who they are—they study culture, which includes both conscious and unconscious factors that drive people to do what they do. Many times, we as humans don’t even know why we are making the decisions we are, nor can we articulate the reason behind our decisions if someone asked. Anthropologists look to uncover unconscious drivers of behavior which can lead to recommendations of unmet needs, white space or new product and service designs. There’s a funny saying about anthropologists: “We solve problems you didn’t even know you had.” While tongue in cheek, this is at the heart of what we do. We are able to gather information about consumers in ways that other researchers don’t.
Q: Why is anthropology an important market research method?
Erica: Not everything in market research can be answered through linear quantitative questions or via a straightforward Q&A style of discussion, which is commonly seen in focus groups. When someone is asked, especially about something that might be difficult to verbalize, people give the most socially acceptable answer. It might not be true, but if they think it’s what they are supposed to say, they say it. In addition, you can’t rely on recall. Stop and ask yourself right now: “What did I eat for lunch 2 weeks ago today?” or “What settings did I use the last time I did laundry?” Much of what we do becomes automatic muscle memory. If I asked you to tell me to describe exactly how you interact with your car during your day, how would you answer? I’m sure you can answer it, but I can guarantee you’ll leave out important details or things you do. This won’t be on purpose, but simply because you cannot recall them or you don’t think they aren’t important.
Anthropology helps us understand the consumer via immersion and enables us to look at things through multiple lenses. Our toolkit has a number of creative methodologies, as well as deep observation.
Q: What knowledge do you have that contributes to your expertise in the area of anthropology?
Erica: I have an M.A. in Anthropology and have worked in the market research industry for more than 10 years. I am what is called an ‘applied anthropologist.’ This means I use the theory and principles behind academic anthropology and apply those to actual issues and/or questions within market research. I studied consumer and popular culture and lived in Japan prior to starting my graduate work. I’ve written articles on ethnography in market research, spoken at conferences on new methodologies, and even conducted past webinars on how to conduct and analyze ethnography in market research.
Q: Do you have a story of when you used anthropology in the field of market research?
Erica: A few years back, I was conducting ethnography on boys’ action figures. We were in homes, as well as in stores. We started in the homes and talked with the young boys in their own environment, and had them show us the things they play with and demonstrate how they played with them. The client wanted to focus only on the boys themselves, but as an anthropologist I knew they didn’t play with, and/or make decisions on what toys to play with, alone. It was something very much embedded in a strong family dynamic, especially in cases where they had brothers or sisters close in age. By understanding the family dynamic, I was able to provide much deeper insights into how decisions were made and what the reasons were for playing the way they did. Furthermore, I was able to overlay a ‘theory of play,’ which highlighted the importance of play at both a psychological and cultural level.
Q: What key topics will you be focusing on during the webinar?
Erica: The webinar will be a look into how anthropology is best used within market research from project inception to data analyzation. The reality of how you apply something that has been so embedded in academia means understanding the realistic approaches you can take in a quick-turn environment like market research. We’ll be discussing what it means to look at market research through the eyes of an anthropologist, provide ideas on how to conduct applied anthropological research, and most importantly, how best to do ethnography that goes above and beyond the traditional thought of ‘in-homes.’
Q: What do you hope to convey to those attending the webinar?
Erica: That anthropology isn’t just for long-term projects that require you to travel around the world. Anthropology provides a different way of looking at how we not only conduct research, but how we analyze, find insights, and ultimately make recommendations. Adding ethnography or anthropological principles to research projects in a variety of ways means getting at things you otherwise wouldn’t.
Q: Anything else you would like to add/draw attention to?
Erica: While best known for ethnography and its participant-observational approaches, an anthropologist mindset can elevate just about any research project. It’s a way of thinking that can be used on a regular basis to provide additional insights to a wide variety of projects. Today, everyone says they do ‘ethnography,’ but the reality is they are just conducting interviews in a different setting. Anthropology means not only looking at things differently, but it also requires you to analyze it through the anthropological lenses.