During a semester long course in Business Cultures at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, I recognized that not only was culture within business important, but it was also important for business to understand the cultures, needs and behaviors of their customers.
Anthropology is not just an academic pursuit, but can be a business pursuit as well. I wrote my thesis for the class on the importance of recognizing the behaviors, needs and motivations of customers.
I found numerous examples of botched marketing and product flops from well known companies. Each failure resulted because the company did not know how to appropriately communicate with their target audience. User research is equally important in marketing as it is in product development. Products that can be useful to everyone are sometimes misunderstood by certain groups due to poor wording in advertisements or poor portrayal of the product.
Included in my paper was a section called Cultural Marketing 101 that described the guidelines anthropologists use when doing ethnographic research. Empathy, cultural relativity and careful observation are three tenants of cultural research that lead to a successful study. It is also important for the researcher to understand his or her own cultural background and bias.
Of utmost importance in the ethnographic process is the framing of open ended questions. Using these types of questions generates a response from participants that is fuller and more informative than the researcher could have assumed. It is doubtful the product flops and poor marketing choices that I talk about in the paper would have happened if ethnographic research had played a part in their development and execution.