At one of our most recent Orlando Copywriters meetups, our creative director Kirk led a workshop on how to use research to inform brand voice. Attendees learned how a company’s tone influences consumer perception, the importance of having a strong brand personality and clear sense of purpose, and the research methods that can help uncover exactly what those are. We covered a range of different approaches—from empathy maps and market audits to card sorting and user journeys.
It was a valuable lesson for copywriters, who always need to practice authenticity when engaging with their audience. But the importance of this type of research goes far beyond the written word. Business owners and marketers should constantly be listening to their audiences in order to make data-backed decisions—and savvy ones should know that what they’re hearing will change as the culture around us does. That type of listening is called ethnographic market research, or ethnography.
Gaining in-depth consumer insights using ethnographic market research
Ethnographic market research has its roots in anthropology, the study of societies and cultures and their development. Using similar methods, like focus groups and observation periods, ethnography helps brands understand consumer needs through a social lens. It offers brand insight into what consumers are really like, and in turn, helps inform business decisions.
Interviews help capture experiences, histories, thoughts, predictions, and insights from many key stakeholders. For example, put yourself in the shoes of a restaurant franchise owner who has noticed revenue plummeting over the past three quarters. Before making changes to your sales or marketing approach, you first want to interview a base of customers to understand why they are now taking their business elsewhere.
Having a variety of interview sources will make it easier to see patterns emerge. In the same example of the restaurant franchise owner, you might discover that patrons have now become more health-conscious, and your menu no longer suits their tastes.
One of the most effective and common types of ethnographic research are observations and shadowing. Think of observation techniques as informed people watching, with researchers observing consumers on both a micro and macro level. Shadowing takes this a step further as researchers follow patrons throughout their time in a space. These techniques work together to let business owners and marketers see issues first-hand.
Let’s say you’re an art museum director that wants to grow membership levels, especially among students. Employing this ethnography method, you would observe museum patrons at various times of the day in order to gain an accurate look at the cross-section of stakeholders. After a few hours of observation and shadowing, you might discover that guests don’t spend a long time at the museum. This discovery can prompt further probing, like the use of surveys, to help get to the root of your issue.
The best way to get feedback about your brand? Just asking. Surveys allow marketers to determine variations in attitudes, knowledge, perceptions, demographic information, and behavior of a group. The best approach often uses a mix of online and in-person questionnaires to accurately gather data.
After discovering that the majority of patrons have relatively short visits, the aforementioned art museum director could use surveying to gain an understanding of why. They might discover that guests are often confused about how to navigate the various art exhibits, highlighting a lack in the self-tour capabilities of the museum.
Using ethnography to create better solutions
When properly done, ethnography offers unique insights into your consumer that are steeped in their real lives. It’s an invaluable way for brands to innovate and develop practical solutions that the customer actually needs, instead of what you believe they want.
Because in 2019’s new model of consumerism, what they want is more important than ever—we even wrote about it. If brands don’t take time to understand their audience, those customers will ultimately go somewhere else.
We’re Good Detectives
We would love to partner together and help you start listening. Drop us a line today so we can start building a research strategy for your brand. Whether you’re a startup trying to establish your target audience, or an established company looking to enter a new market, we can help you make informed decisions to suit your business goals.