Monday, September 28, 2009

What is ethnography and how does it provide customer understanding?

Years and years ago me and a mate (he now runs dotcom startups in Silicone Valley) joined NOP to set up a unit called, DSi. It stood for, this is the honest truth, 'Department of Silly Ideas'. You see, in 1993, video taping people was a truly silly idea to most researchers. Today it's an essential part of any agencies array of tools.

Today, NOP and GFK are as one and they have an ethnographic unit which is no longer called DSi. I stumbled across their website. My instant reaction? Wouldn't it be great if we could all agree on what ethnographic research is and how it works for clients?

Some of what is explained on the site is good, but I don't agree with most of it and I haven't got the time to explain why because I need my sleep for an all day project kick-off workshop in Paris tomorrow. No this isn't a copout.

So stay tuned for my full response or let me know what you think ethnographic research should be to clients.


  1. I'll be very interest in reading and comment your full response. Meanwhile i leave a question (that i be thinking to): do we have to agree in "everything"?

  2. Good question. But for the benefit of clients, I would say, yes. We do need to agree.

  3. Hi, I'm new to your website but glad to make the acquaintance. I am an etnologist myself, and a brand consultant, and what I get from this particular post of yours is that there is a risk for lack of creativity. Or perhaps lack of sillyness even. And I would agree. I think there is an obvious risk that we may conform to much to business thinking. If we need to agree on something I think it could be to agree that we don't need to agree with mainstream business jargon or way of thinking.

    Well, just a thought, it would be nice :)