Edited by Russell W. Belk
Chapter 27: Reading Ethnographic Research: Bringing Segments to Life Through Movie Making and Metaphor
27 Reporting ethnographic research: bringing segments to life through movie making and metaphor Diane M. Martin, John W. Schouten and James H. McAlexander Introduction Marketing managers responsible for functions such as advanced product planning, product design and product positioning can beneﬁt greatly from an intuitive and empathic understanding of their target customers. The surest way to empathize with the textures, rhythms and challenges of customers’ lives would be for marketing managers to live with them, socialize with them and participate in activities that involve their product usage. In fact we have worked with ﬁrms that have sent their own teams into the homes and workplaces of target customers for days at a time to do just that. However immersion in customers’ lives is impractical for most marketing strategists or product designers, especially if the target customer is a Boston executive and the manager is a designer based in Tokyo. Short of complete immersion in customers’ lives, the most eﬀective means of developing deep customer understanding or ‘bringing segments to life’ is market ethnography. Marketers who understand ethnographic methods do not dispute their ability to develop rich, empathic and highly contextual knowledge of consumer behaviors, motivations and unmet needs. However, many marketers question ethnographers’ ability to transfer that knowledge meaningfully to a manager who is separated from the original research experience by multiple layers of people, culture and reporting media. Ethnographic research often plays to tough crowds. For a research report to have broad impact, especially within a multinational...
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