> Miller Lite wanted to understand how brand updates would be received and understood by their current customers. Researchers conducted in-home qualitative studies to gauge user reaction to marketing ideas being considered. Interviews were conducted in stores and bars with different brand concepts in a natural setting to gauge consumer reaction. Using a variety of ethnographic methods, the project culminated in the successful update of all Miller Lite branding and marketing materials.
> Best Buy, a leading consumer electronics retailer, wanted to explore expanding its selection to include a health and fitness department. They were interested in how well customers would accept this brand expansion with a particular appeal to female shoppers. They wanted to understand the consumer product research and decision-making processes and to identify value triggers for investing in home fitness equipment. Ethnographers collected stories among women who recently purchased fitness equipment learning about stores the participants liked including Best Buy. Researchers accompanied consumers on shopping trips for fitness equipment to understand the purchase process. The ethnographic research helped Best Buy design the fitness department and provided direction in product selection.
> Ethnographic research is also useful in business-to-business situations. Bosch, a manufacturer of production equipment, wanted to determine how to gain a competitive advantage over rival companies. They first conducted interviews with production managers and then went into the manufacturing plant to observe how production-line staff used competitive equipment. The observations revealed there were customer needs that were missed by competitors such as awkward adjustments and difficult maintenance procedures. The result was a line of Bosch manufacturing products that overcame the shortcomings of competitive products. Observing the use of competitive products, an ethnographic technique, gave Bosch the market insight they needed.
> Miele, a German household products company, wanted to investigate the cleaning needs of people with allergies. They sent researchers into homes of people who had children with allergies to observe cleaning practices. Through ethnographic research, they discovered, parents spent extra time vacuuming mattresses to remove allergens. Parents could not be sure the mattresses were allergen- free, so they kept vacuuming. Miele developed a vacuum cleaner with a series of lights that indicated when the item is dust-free. This reduced the time and uncertainty of parents vacuuming their child’s bed, adding value consumers desired. Based on this research, Miele also introduced a washing machine with special features to thoroughly clean pillows and bedding of allergens.
Perhaps, you should incorporate ethnography into your marketing research toolbox?
* Herb Brotspies is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing (Retired) at Nova Southeastern University. For further information, contact Dr. Brotspies at firstname.lastname@example.org or (561) 302-3060.