Reveling in BBQ: Dining Out and Ritual

I am in smoked meat paradise this week. Kansas City is perhaps the focal point of this marvelous cuisine – whether you’re a fan of Carolina or Texas styles, KC is a defining setting in the near-religious sects that defined American BBQ. There are places where it is served by waiters in white jackets and […]

Triangulation: Validating Research and Strategy

One of the central problems we run into when discussing research finds, particularly when we’re using those finding to give strategic direction, is having the research’s validity called into question. I’ve talked over the years a fair amount about the idea of triangulation, but I’ve rarely summed up what it means. Here’s my take in […]

Obsessing Over Bias

Recognizing and understanding research bias is crucial for determining the utility of study results and an essential aspect of decision making in marketing. Research plans that lack clear mechanisms to minimize bias are unlikely to be viewed favorably and the end results dismissed. But what are the rules for qualitative research studies? Whenever I am […]

Art, Advertising, and Food

From da Vinci’s late-15th-century “Last Supper” to Dana Sherwood’s contemporary videos of cakes being devoured by baboons, to The Food Network’s Cake Wars, food and art have always been inseparable. No single generalization can blanket our engagement with food across the broad range of media, from oil on canvas to fermented cabbage, or the variety […]

Fieldwork Part 1: Hemophilia

David has hemophilia. Three days a week, he wakes up, showers, dresses, and sticks a needle into a vein. He’s been doing this since he was a child. He does this three days a week, for fifteen minutes each time, because if he doesn’t, a fall or scrape can land him in the hospital – […]

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 […]

Taking Clients Along for the Ride

In the last few years, ethnography has shifted from a novel and often misunderstood methodology to a do-it-or-die necessity in many marketers’ and product designers’ tool kits. The idea of ethnography has a logical appeal for business clients; market intelligence born from the homes and hearts of customers. It’s an ethnographer’s job to talk to […]

Doing Away With Disciplines?

When it comes to explaining what business ethnographers do the first hurdle we often face entails adequately describing the disciplinary substance of anthropological and sociological practice to business professionals not necessarily versed in any aspects of social science. Ethnography is a buzz word in most business circles, but it is more than that to those […]

Learning the Language of Business

For an anthropologist interested in practicing in the business world, it is as important that he or she learn the language, so to speak, of that culture as it is for an anthropologist entering the a small, tribal society.  It would be tempting to initially argue that the university settings in which we first learn […]

Serving Up Findings: What Insight Is For Dinner?

It is worth noting again that the people employing us are generally indifferent, at least initially, to our concerns about holistic approaches, theoretical positions, etc., often because they are not familiar with anthropology as a field of inquiry.  The information we provide must be made familiar enough to draw them in.  If this means simplifying […]