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The power of the 'aesthetic imperative' (sidebar)

The benefits of ethnography

A technique that is fast gaining favor for gaining reliable consumer insights about how consumers view and use products is a process called ethnography. In simplest terms, it is the study of human behavior in its natural environment.

E&J Gallo Winery, Modesto, CA, makes extensive use of ethnographic research. Melinda Wooten, manager of consumer research, says the winery uses such research to increase brand performance, mine consumer insights for new-brand development, and explore alternative packaging possibilities.

E&J Gallo achieves the best results when two different teams conduct separate but simultaneous interviews. Team members conduct multiple interviews in different cities over several days during the course of a week. Sessions last up to 90 minutes, starting in consumers’ homes and continuing as they shop in the store. Interviewers ask about consumers’ aspirations and their likes and dislikes. They also observe social interactions and how consumers shop and use products.

The week culminates with record creation while data and insights about consumers’ behavior and attitudes are fresh.

“You need to have designers present on the ethnography team because seeing is believing, and designers are very visual,” Wooten says. “But ethnography is worthless unless your design team can translate it to gold. Ethnography is the most personal, in-depth way to understand consumers.”

See the story that goes with this sidebar: The power of the ‘aesthetic imperative’

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