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THE NEW ETHNOGRAPHERS Using Observational Research to Inform New Product Design and Development.

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Presentation on theme: "THE NEW ETHNOGRAPHERS Using Observational Research to Inform New Product Design and Development."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE NEW ETHNOGRAPHERS Using Observational Research to Inform New Product Design and Development

2 About Me  Almost 20 years as a marketing manager  B.A. in Cultural Anthropology  M.B.A. in Marketing  Working on Ph.D. in Marketing (minor in design)  research focuses on how institutional, functional (subcultural) and/or microcultural discourses, practices and experiences influence firm innovation  particular interest in the use of ethnography in new product development and design Wilner

3 The Study’s Context  The marketing concept says that to achieve competitive advantage and strong performance, firms should identify and satisfy customer needs and wants better than their competitors (cf. Kotler, 1999; Kirca et al. 2005).  Of course, accurately identifying those needs and wants in the course of new product design and development (NPDD) is easier said than done. Wilner

4 The Study’s Context  Traditional market research methods to gather information about consumers: self-report surveys, focus groups, analysis of historic purchase data, etc.  These methods have benefits in identifying some consumption habits or patterns, but are less useful for uncovering unrecognized, unarticulated or future desires  Deshpandé (1983) offers a useful distinction between research methods that are appropriate for verification versus those that are more useful for discovery. Wilner

5 Ethnography  Ethnography, from the Greek, ethnos = people; graph= writing is a discovery-based research method borrowed from cultural anthropology utilized by both marketing scholars (cf. Belk, ed. 1991) as well as practitioners (cf. Jordan, 2003; Ante 2006, Khermouch 2001, Mariampolski 2006).  Ethnography is generally understood as a descriptive account (usually written) of a society or culture. This account is produced after the researcher has spent time among the group of interest (naturalistic context), engaged in an activity known as fieldwork. Wilner

6 Ethnography  Traditionally, ethnographies covered a “natural cycle” (usually a year) to see how societies and their activities changed throughout the period  Engaging with informants (participant-observation) was considered at the heart of ethnography, complemented by interviews of informants  Researcher-as-instrument  Interpretive perspective  What people do vs. what they say they do Wilner

7 Many Types of Ethnography According to Mariampolsky (2006) these include:  Observed product usage in private settings  Structured usage  Contextual usability  Cultural studies  Day-in-the-life  Accompanied purchase  Guerrilla/blitzkrieg ethnography  Observed purchase or mystery shopping Wilner

8 Types of Ethnography These types vary along multiple dimensions, including:  Context: private vs. public  Specific product vs. category vs. use constellation  How structured the interaction is  Amount of interaction (participation) with consumers  How evident the presence of the researcher is  Duration of study  Number (and “types”) of informants Wilner

9 Types of Ethnography Other variables:  Use of informant interviews  Use of auto-driving (elicitation techniques)  Informant checks  Triangulation with other researchers, methods  Composition of research team  Outputs  Written Report? Video? Recommendations? Designs? Wilner

10 For Example…  Grab a pen and paper and pair up with someone beside you. Take turns describing the experience of using a laundromat  If you have used a laundromat, when was it?  Why did you need to wash there?  Did you go with anyone?  How often did you go?  What were the challenges?  What would have made the experience easier? Wilner

11 Now Let’s Observe Wilner

12 For example…  Now, work with your partner again and consider:  What did you see?  What didn’t you see?  How is it different than you remembered?  What you add to your list of challenges?  What would you add to your recommendations?  What is doing laundry in a laundromat? Wilner

13 Cultural Knowledge Cost: Each washer in a laundromat generally takes $1–5 in quarters, depending on its size, and each dryer typically takes one quarter per 6–8 minutes. Some laundromats now have washers and dryers that accept prepaid laundry cards instead of quarters.…Cost of drop-off laundry\ service: usually, laundromats charge by the pound... A typical load of laundry weighs 10–25 pounds, costing anywhere from $7.50 to $ Supplies: Take the following items with you: Your laundry in a basket or laundry bag; detergent ; fabric softener; A roll of quarters… The washers and dryers at laundromats are similar to machines designed for homes..but laundromat facilities are also different in several ways. Washers and dryers require quarters (or prepaid cards) to operate. Many washers and dryers have larger capacities than at home machines. Machines may not be as well-maintained or cleaned as you’d like. Compartments for detergents and fabric softeners are located atop the washer. Washers typically tumble rather than agitate…Remember that you’re sharing washers and dryers—leaving your laundry in the machine too long is not only harmful to your clothes but also inconsiderate to others. Never leave laundry unattended. Because most laundromat washers are front-load models, remember that they don’t require as much detergent as a top loader. Wilner

14 The Role of the Senses “This is simply the freshest, cleanest Scent imaginable. We don’t know If anyone can tell us why, but this May be the most comforting, comfortable scent in the [Demeter Fragrance] Library.” Wilner

15 Fun and Sociality At a music festival [in the Netherlands]…jeans brand Wrangler offered festival goers a much needed service: laundry. And at 18 meters wide and 9 meters high, the Wrangler Laundromat wasWrangler Laundromat hard to miss. People dropped off their mud-encrusted laundry and were sent a text message the moment it was ready. No spare change of clothes? Wrangler came up with a generous solution to that problem, too: they handed out black overalls to anyone who used the laundromat. [This is] an exercise in experiential marketing, aimed at surprising and delighting consumers in a way that magazine ads or TV spots usually can’t. Wilner

16 Doing Laundry as Clean Slate Declaring laundry bankruptcy If you’re someone with a mountain of laundry who is having a problem getting your laundry situation under control, I think that the laundromat bankruptcy plan is a good plan to follow. Go once to the laundromat, get all of your clothes washed, and then get started on your new laundry routine at home with a clean slate… you can do your laundry yourself, or you can use the Fluff-N Fold service that most laundromats offer... There is something simple and wonderful about using the laundromat as your first step in getting on track with a home laundry routine. Also, if you don’t have a washer and dryer in your home and don’t already use it, you may want To consider using the services of your local Fluff-N-Fold. You may find that the expense of the service is less than the amount you value the time you could spend doing something else. Wilner

17 Reflections on Exercise  Everyday processes are complex  They have both material and social meaning  Missing out on part of the story might mean missing out on an NPD opportunity  Looking for one thing, you might find another  A priori assumptions can get in the way  Lived experience is powerful  Ethnography is only as good a tool as the people who use it. Wilner

18 Ethnography and NPD  Product design has long been consumer-centered  Human factors analysis  Ergonomics  Participative Design  Although instances of corporate ethnography date back more than 70 years, the method wasn’t used extensively in commercial applications until the development of interactive software in the 1980s (Wasson 2000).  Ethnography has become popular in product design because it “fills a void in the research data” (Jordan 2003 p. 77). Wilner

19 Ethnography and NPD  The few marketing articles that mention both product development and ethnographic methods do so only indirectly (cf. Arnould and Wallendorf 1994, Agafonoff 2006; Elliott and Jankel-Elliot 2003); design is rarely explicitly addressed.  There is literature on the use of observational research for NPDD in the management literature and NPD literature, but very little theorizing about design and ethnography (for exceptions, see. Rappaport and Rayport, 1997; Rosenthal and Capper 2006) Wilner

20 Ethnography and NPD  Globalization, market fragmentation and increased competition have increased pressure on firms to innovate faster, with products that resonate with both existing and prospective customers  Ethnography has consequently been embraced as a research method by firms’ marketing, R&D, and design units. The hope is that its techniques will bring an understanding of consumers’ lived experiences, and therefore enable the creation of more relevant, marketable and successful products Wilner

21 Research Questions 1. Why do firms engage in ethnographic inquiry, particularly in the context of new product development and design? 2. What strategic value do they believe the methodology brings to NPDD? 3. What roles do marketers, designers, engineers and/or qualitative researchers play and how to they intersect/interact? 4. Who in the firm manages and/or interprets the findings? Wilner

22 Ethnography and NPD  Ethnography, then, is seen as a unique lens for “seeing” the consumer  Hundreds of major firms purport to you it as one research method for NP (or service) D  Is it a fad?  Does it work?  Under what conditions?  Do you need to hire anthropologists? Design ethnographers? Marketing consultants? Wilner

23 Research Program Phase One: reviewing the rhetoric surrounding the use of ethnography in NPDD (i.e.: looking at what Proponents of the method say about it) Phase Two: conducting on-site observation to see what transpires and how it compares to assumptions Phase Three: Gleaning best practices for NPDD Wilner

24 Phase One Data Sources  Books on ethnography written for marketing managers;  Media reports on firm use of the method  Blogs on design, innovation, and applied anthropology that discuss the ethnographic method in NPD  Ethnographic consultants’ marketing materials (often just one of a suite of market research methods offered)  Design associations’ materials  Conference proceedings (e.g. EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference), DUX (Designing for User Experience) Wilner

25 Preliminary Findings Ethnography = X-Ray Vision  can uncover current design flaws  e.g. the smell of clean laundry (Abrams 2000) Wilner

26 Preliminary Findings Ethnography = Horse Whispering  can get into consumers’ minds; figure out what they’re not saying  e.g. seniors at Best Western hotels (Khermouch 2001) Wilner

27 Preliminary Findings Ethnography = Dream Interpretation  can reveal brand or product associations that consumers aren’t consciously aware of  e.g. technology use in the home (Elliott and Jankel-Elliot 2003) Wilner

28 Preliminary Findings Ethnography = Muse Will stimulate ideation for breakthrough products e.g. Herman Miller’s Resolve Office System (Deasy et al. 2001) find new consumer markets or categories for existing products (Jordan 2003) Wilner

29 Next Phase  Interviewing corporate stakeholders about the role of ethnography in new product design and development (including marketers, designers, ethnographers, consultants)  Observing firms’ qualitative research efforts and considering how the product design and development process is impacted  I would welcome your feedback and appreciate your participation in the study Wilner

30 Thank You! Contact information: Sarah Wilner Schulich School of Business York University, Toronto Wilner


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