Anthropology, Ethnography and Insights

Someone recently asked me,”When working with a retailer or brand, how do you conduct your research?” It’s a simple but extremely important question.  We do a mix of ethnographic field work, Proxemics studies, biological analysis and dramaturgical analysis, all of which sounds very technical and jargony. The point is to, well, make a point. Ethnography is […]

Putting Insights to Use: Making the Complex Simple

The lines between retail spaces and the web are increasingly blurred. The days are gone when a retailer could count on the simple fact that people need things and a place to get them.  Shopping has become many things and retail spaces increasingly satisfy needs other than simple procurement of goods – they are places […]

Laying Out Fieldwork in Under 10 Steps

DEFINE THE PROBLEM What are the pain points a client has defined? What issues are we trying to better understand. Depending on the project, questions may be very tactical and specific or very strategic and broad. In either case, the first step is to clearly articulate what the overarching goal is. RETHINK THE PROBLEM Once […]

Retail and Anthropology

Someone asked me the other day how anthropology fits into retail. Since it was a cocktail party I needed to be brief. And I think that brevity is sometimes our best friend.  In short, we help retailers understand that shopping is about more than simply finding “things”. Retail is growing increasingly complex. 70% of purchases […]

Symbolism of Color and Web Design

When thinking about how the study of symbols and signs can factor into interface design (whether for the traditional web or a mobile environment) two questions come to mind.  First, up to which level of a semiotic sign – iconic, index, and symbolic sign – should symbolic meaning be dealt with in eBranding?  Second, how […]

Art, Video and Client Acceptance

When we conduct qualitative research it is inevitable that we have clients who choose to dismiss what we have to say.  More accurately, there are people within the organization that have, for a host of reasons, made the decision, consciously and subconsciously, to find any excuse possible to reject the finding.  The question is what […]

Writing Case Studies, Not White Papers

When we were in college, particularly those of us who came out of the social sciences, we tended to write volumes when given the task of reporting. I recall regularly churning out 50 pages or more every week at times.  For better or for worse, many researchers, ethnographers in particular, have come to think of […]

No, I Am Not John Galt

I recently had a conversation with a long-time friend that led to yet another discussion of Ayn Rand.  I say “yet another” because her work seems to have become a rallying cry for a large swath of people in this election year.  What fascinates me is the fact that very little critical assessment of Rational […]

Speaking to Business, Not Academics

Why do ethnographers find their work dismissed in many business settings?  Because we don’t always practice what we preach.  Once we land projects, we often fail to do an assessment of the most crucial cultural sample of all – the client. Vast numbers of pages, complex discussions of theoretical frameworks, and jargon-laden language are understood […]

Good Symbol Systems Means Profit

The sign is the central term in semiotics. The sign is made up of the signified and the signifier. The two always go together, they are like the two sides of a coin. The signifier is the physical form of an object; what we see, touch and smell in the objective and shared reality. The […]