by: Idris

Marketers need to accept the fact that we live in a world of product
and channel proliferation where we already have served nearly every
need several times over, where there are over 100 varieties of bottled
water, over 50 different features available in cell phones and 10 ways
to purchase a pair of Nikes. We need to abandon the simplistic notion
of the simple need-fulfillment paradigm. The complexities of today's consumers can no longer be measured in
terms of a set of attributes, product or brand attributes, features or
performances that need to be fulfilled or exceeded and that ensures
product success. This is the path to commodization. Market research and
focus groups aren't telling us anything we don't know. We must drop the
notion that consumers can tell you what they want.

The answer to this is ethnography. A recent Business Week
article has brought Ethnography out of the shadows. We see many
marketing companies will join the "ethnography bandwagon" and dilute
the method the way they've diluted focus groups and other research
methods.  What is ethnography? Ethnography is a form of research
focusing on the sociology of meaning through close observation of
sociocultural phenomena. Typically, the ethnographer focuses on a
community (not necessarily geographic, considering also work, leisure,
and other communities), selecting informants who are known to have an
overview of the activities of the community. This process is intended
to reveal common cultural understandings related to the phenomena under
study. These subjective but collective understandings on a subject are
often interpreted to be more significant than objective data. 
Ethnography-based innovation opportunity discoveries are often very
powerful. These observations can then be used as a basis of
brainstorming sessions to allow the marketers to arrive at a solution
that uses the habits existing on one hand to resolve the problems
persisting on the other. We have yet to see how digital technolgies can
allow ethographic research to be performed in a more effective manner.

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