Ethnography for Business


Ethnography has become a buzz word. A lot of companies claim to do “Ethnography” or offer it as a service. However, most of the companies offering ethnography services are just market research firms and what they are offering is basically “fancy” surveys and focus groups. In terms of agencies, a lot of agencies offer “ethnography” as part of their services, but usually they are bringing in outside consultants to do this (i.e. they have no one with an anthropology background on staff). Also, in most cases this is an adjunct to the standard branding, marketing, and design services as opposed to a unique focus.

Several of MDC companies noted their “ethnographic” work, but none actually listed an anthropologist on staff. Red Associates is the only agency I could find oriented towards selling Anthropology qua Anthropology and have an actual Anthropologist on staff. Most of the other real business ethnography, anthropology companies are small consulting firms. Ethnographic Solutions being a good example.

Red Associates
Red is a NY/Copenhagen based company that mixes social sciences and marketing. They broadly categorize their services as “Applied Business Anthropology”.

From website:
Who We Are

ReD Associates is an innovation and strategy consultancy. The anthropologists, sociologists, economists, journalists, and designers who make up ReD employ the methods of social science to study human behavior.

Our teams in Copenhagen and New York work together to develop deep insights into how and why consumers make decisions. We use these insights both to see the world in more compassionate and complex ways—and to identify new opportunities for our clients.

We benefit hugely from having a very international staff: Our diversity of perspectives enables us to ask culturally relevant questions and explore the world in open-ended ways.

In our practice we employ methods and ways of thinking from two domains—social scientific practices from ethnography, market analysis from traditional business practice—to provide clients with clear and comprehensive directions for moving forward.

Ethnographic Solutions
DC based Market Research company. The principals are all Anthropologists from respectable backgrounds. Looking at their services they have found some interesting ways of applying their skills beyond the usual “market survey”.

From their website:
-Physician-Patient Dialogue
-Sales Representative Ethnography
-Day in Life Customer Ethnography
-Employee-Customer Dialogue
-Consumer Unmet Needs
-Positioning & Platform Research
-Message Testing & Story Flow
-Creative Concept Testing
-Visual & Sales Aid Testing
-Medical Device Testing
-Consumer Buying Process
-Disease Exploratory Research
-Customer Tracking Research