For decades, firms have sought marketing insights through the use of ethnographic methods that investigate consumer cultures and subcultures. This conference, chaired by Professor John Deighton of the Harvard Business School, will explore the state of ethnography in marketing today.
In contrast to conventional research that gathers objective data, often by directly asking consumers for their attitudes and opinions, ethnographic research pursues subtler insights that depend more on observation and participation than on the consumers’ self-reports. Ethnographic investigators are alert to the operation of the “taken-for-granted” forces of culture that underlie consumers’ attitudes, opinions and behaviours.
Ethnography poses some difficult challenges to the firms that try to use it. What exactly is it good for? How does it fit into the firm’s decision-making processes? Does it complement or displace other research methods? When, and by what criteria, are its findings to be trusted? When is an insight from culture most likely to give a firm competitive advantage, and when it is most likely to be emulated?
The conference will address these questions with speakers from firms including Intel Corporation, Cheskin, Eastman Kodak Company, Miller Brewing Company, Royal Philips Electronics, and the Procter & Gamble Company, and universities including Harvard Business School, University of Arizona, University of Notre Dame, University of Colorado, University of Wisconsin, MIT, and York University. Each day will conclude with vigorous debate on the presentations.