Technicolor Malt Liquor and All-Night Fieldwork

In its original formulation, Sparks was one of the first alcoholic beverages to contain caffeine. Its other original active ingredients included taurine, ginseng, and guarana, the backbone ingredients of traditional energy drinks. It also contained 6% alcohol. Packaged in a can that looked like a AAA battery, its labeling boldly and loudly stated all of […]

Beer, Brands, and Identity

Drinking alcohol seems to be one of the few things humans nearly everywhere do. Beer in particular has long been a part of human history and people have enjoyed raising a pint with friends since well before, well, pints were a thing. By 4000 BC the Sumerians were fermenting a form of bread to make […]

PREFUNKING: Ethnography, booze, and neon drink

First Published in Peeps Forum: In its original formulation, Sparks was one of the first alcoholic beverages to contain caffeine. Its other original active ingredients included taurine, ginseng, and guarana, the backbone ingredients of traditional energy drinks. It also contained 6% alcohol. Packaged in a can that looked like a AAA battery, its labeling boldly […]

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 […]

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 […]

Culture, Sample and What Clients NEED to Know

The key point in ethnography is that the unit of analysis is not the individual, but the culture in which people operate.  As such, it is intrinsic to understanding ethnography’s value to comprehend that the study of a culture involves exploring two levels of consciousness and meaning: the explicit and the implicit. Explicit culture is […]

Yard Beer, Manliness and Purchase Decisions

Yard beer, cheap domestics that we’re all very familiar with, is a staple in the American male drinking process.  One of the primary reasons is obvious – it’s cheap.  It does its job quite well.  But cost is only one element in the decision process for beer shopping.  Indeed, there is little about it that […]

Chinese Beer, Context and Branding

The beer market is a fickle place. Tastes change with the season and fashion is as much a part of the selection process as flavor.  Even so, experimentation can be limited and people fall back on standards. Beer behavior is hooked on tradition, likes its regular place at the bar and distrusts strangers. Admittedly, with […]

When “Bad” Interviews Go Good, Part 1

Contrary to what people say, there is rarely such a thing as a bad fieldwork experience.  I won’t say never, because they do happen. But more often than not, what the client would be inclined to look at as a bad interview, event, etc. is in fact an opportunity.  There is always a chance to […]

How Beer Finds Meaning

Drinking is social, we all know it. Nothing new there until we start to break down what that means. Being a collective drink means that beer choices are shaped by season, the socio-cultural roles we assume in different contexts, identity, the invention of tradition, etc. “Identity” arises when an individual constructs and presents any one of a number […]