Ethnography: Ethnographic Qualitative Research

Ethnographic Research:

Ethnography, or perhaps more specifically Ethnographic Research was eloquently summarised by one of the world’s most famous Anthropologists, Clifford Geertz, as the art of ‘’thick description’’. This ‘’thick description’’ forms the basis of any ethnographic qualitative research project where the objective is to provide an in-depth nuanced understanding of daily life and practice.

This form of research, whilst borne out of traditional Cultural Anthropology, is transferable to contemporary Market Research, allowing one to observe and uncover the latent behaviour and attitudes of consumers in their natural environments (i.e. no focus groups or artificial settings). The ‘’thick description’’ associated with detailed consumer insights is reliant on techniques such as participant observation, ‘Photovoice’, consumer diaries and in-home interviews.


  • To acquire a deeper understanding through consumer immersion: Customer behaviour; Needs and unmet needs; Customer experience (product and shopping); Brand and product positioning; Decision-making process and journey (Decision Tree).


  • In a country characterised by divergent consumer profiles, where a holistic understanding of the underlying motivations driving consumption on an individual level is difficult to establish, we recommend conducting Ethnographic Market Research to provide a 360° profile of the target market using a customer deep dive.
  • Allows us to gain 1st hand insight due to the personal/sensitive nature of the information on health about themselves and the household in their homes.
  • This approach unearths in-depth consumer behaviour by understanding the in-home household reality and needs that is often beneath the more rational feedback provided by all other research methodologies.
ethnographic research

Ethnographic Research allow us to acquire a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs, behaviour needs & experience


  • An ethnographic-style in-depth interview (3-4hrs) with target consumers in their homes.
  • In addition to a semi-structured conversation, we will get the consumers to describe their experiences using a “think-aloud” approach to better understand what they are thinking.
  • We will accompany the consumer to their preferred retail store and they will wear “eye-tracking glasses” for a 100% accurate understanding of their shopping experience.
  • Respondents will be tasked to do some “homework” that will help us to better understand their lives:
    • A picture/photo collage that describes perceptions about the different brands/products they are aware of and use.
    • A self-completion questionnaire which provides feedback on:
      • TV, magazine, newspaper and radio.
      • Sports, hobbies, interests.
  • We use highly trained ethnographers to facilitate the discussion and piloting exercise and they will record (audio and visual) and take comprehensive notes.
  • We take a short video clip of each consumer to provide further insight about the actual experience and perceptions of the core communication target market. Actionable results with digital photographs/video clips are used to clearly communicate feedback.

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