Practitioners Rise to the Challenge: A Discussion of Methods in Business Ethnography

Thank you Russell, for preparing this session!

Susan Tratner (SUNY-Empire State)

Perspective from the Business Department: Marketing Ethnography Methodology
Many anthropologists are employed by businesses, using excellent methods and appropriate theories and providing valuable results. Others in these businesses or academic fields believe they are using “ethnography” without really understanding it and are not knowledgeable of either the history or the theories that could assist their work. Individual papers demonstrate the range of ways that anthropological methods and theories have been used to assist and critique businesses. Participants come from academia, private consulting and industry. Discussion will focus on the way in which well designed and executed anthropologically generated insights can benefit the business environment.

Ruth Sando (Barbara Perry Assoc)

Team Ethnography: A Tool for Market Research
The challenge for organizations is not only creating new solutions, but also reaching consensus across different parts of the organization with different goals and agendas. For the outside consultant, providing insights and innovative new ideas will not result in action if the organization cannot change successfully. “Team Ethnography,” an approach developed over 15 years ago
by an anthropologist working in private industry, has been used successfully in many well-known companies. Employees become partners in the research process, facilitating their expertise and guaranteeing their cooperation in the implementation process. The process and several examples will be provided.

Timothy de Waal Malefyt (BBDO Worldwide & Parsons, New Sch for Design)

Success in Ethnography: Reframing Client Knowledge
The novelty of ethnography as a methodology for marketing and branding purposes has long since waxed and waned. From experience as director of an ethnographic group for a major advertising agency, success is determined by carefully managing client expectations and by reframing the invisible to make it more visible and by keeping the client more informed. He wrote a case study of a project with a Fortune 100 company to be discussed by the Omnicom members. This project was a success as it ensured transmission of knowledge, the agency strategist was involved and the brand story was brought to life

Ari Shapiro (Hall & Partners Healthcare)

Writing Business: The Politics of Corporate Ethnography
In the increasingly commodified world of marketing research – where ‘insights’ are attainable in syndication and ‘methodologies’ are mass-marketed – corporate executives look to ethnography to add that special sauce. Occult, unpronounceable, and too expensive for the average corporate research budget, executives have understandably high expectations for corporate ethnographers. In that context, the work of delivering ‘successful’ research demands a complex mix of researcher intuition regarding client expectations, client education about what ethnography is (and is not), and ‘actionable,’ research-based insights into the business issue at hand.

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Session took place in Memphis, TN at the 68th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in March 2008.

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