Ethnography vs. Contextual Interviews: Methods Matter

Methods matter. It’s often assumed that an open-ended interview is ethnography and the reasons for the confusion are understandable, but an ethnographically-informed approach, which a contextual interview can certainly be, is not the same thing as a true ethnographic project.  Contextual interviews, which rely on self-report data, and ethnography, which focuses on observed data through […]

The Importance of Learning Participant Observation

Teaching and learning is interactive. Despite the fact that learning is all-pervasive in our life, there is no single, universal theory of how people learn. There are two major schools of thought concerning the learning process: one consists of behavior theories, the other of cognitive theories. Cognitive theorists view learning as a function of purely […]

Why REAL Ethnography Still Matters

Fieldwork takes us to strange places. It allows us to come face to face with unexpected moments of both clarity and confusion, which can, in fact, spark innovation. I once spent a day with a 29 year old man who made about $600K a year running all things web-related for a major clothing designer. He lived […]

Gym Culture Branding

While I’m not as disciplined as I should be, I am an avid gym goer (it serves as a marvelous counterpoint to my many vices). I am far from alone. According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), health club industry revenue topped $90 million last year. Today, 70+ million people worldwide are members […]

Fire, Meat, and Spring

Spring is a celebration of life, warmth, and sunlight. It ushers in outdoor dining, drinking, and cooking. It’s time to brush the remaining winter detritus off the barbecue and throw masses of meat on the grill. It is also a time to ponder the notion that cooking over an open fire is an ancient ritual. Traces of […]

Moderating vs. Learning

Let me state that I am not a moderator. At least, not a traditional one. I am an ethnographer, an anthropologist, and a strategist. And while both moderators and ethnographers speak to people, they are not the same thing. This isn’t just a matter of semantic difference, it is at the heart of how practitioners execute their […]

Creating American Wine Culture

 “Wine is sunlight, held together by water”, Galileo Galilei. It is a favorite quote of mine, a beautiful turn of phrase, and for me, an absolute poetic truth. Wine factors into my life in subtle and less than subtle ways. As winter approaches, I settle into my nightly routine with a glass of something rich, heavy, […]

Snacks, Time, and Sex

We have to eat; we like to eat; eating makes us feel good; eating nourishes our bodies and souls; it is more important than sex. It is also a profoundly social urge. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Food is […]

What Makes for a Good Journey

A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customers go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. It’s nothing new, we’ve all done them or been involved in their development. But what […]

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 […]