An Ethnographic Approach To Marketing: Project Communication Part 2

A specific arm of ethnography that is commonly used to gain information for marketing purposes is digital ethnography. Moore (2018) describes ‘digital’ as something that is changeable, dialogical, always in motion, connected to processes such as electronics and is easy to overwrite.

Digital ethnography is a way of researching the experience of reality being transformed or mediated by the digital through “theory and empirical observation” (Moore 2018). In relation to this project, marketers can use digital ethnography to observe consumers who have their experience facilitated by digital technology. For example, the nature of social media allows consumers to share their opinions constantly and in real time, this provides fast feedback loops for organisations (Mitew 2017). This research experience would be entirely different if the digital element was removed. Consumers are viewed in a natural environment online and their responses are not influenced by the thought of someone conducting research on their behaviour, thus the benefit of conducting digital ethnography.


Credit: RawPixel

To finalise my research proposal I would like to briefly discuss examples of ethnography being used for marketing purposes. These will be covered in greater detail during the final project.

Parkes and Faulkner (2017) describe ethnography as a “search for context”, and that understanding the context of customers is an efficient practice for business success. They explain that the three key facets of ethnography are participant observation, thick description (describe everything you see) and triangulation, which is the act of synthesising and cross referencing multiple sources of data. Parkes and Faulker (2017) discussed case studies of using ethnography for marketing design to expand upon these principles.


In Guinness‘ market in Ghana, they decided to increase the size of beer bottles providing consumers with more value. However, this abruptly resulted in a sales decrease and the company asked themselves why. They decided to conduct an ethnographic study of consumers to find out what their needs are, consumers were then viewed drinking the product in  bars and nightclubs. Guinness was able to determine that beers in smaller bottles carried the association that they were more potent in alcohol content, and that it was more manly to drink from a smaller bottle. Guinness used this information to drive their strategy and reintroduced the smaller bottles, sales rose as a result (Parkes and Faulkner 2017)


Credit: Zach Meaney

This is an example of ethnography successfully being used to drive marketing and business communications, in my final project I will aim to cover additional case studies to further show the benefits of ethnography. This will be an interesting project as my focus is looking at how marketers use ethnography to gain a deeper consumer insight, and since I am looking at what marketers do and why, I am essentially conducting an ethnographic study too. The final project will be displayed in a visually appealing way, linking to the focus of marketing and business communications.

Reference list:

Mitew, T 2017, ‘Liquid labour: Global media industries and the price of immaterial production’, Prezi, 21 July, viewed 27 September 2018, <>.

Moore, C 2018, ‘Digital Ethnography’, Prezi, 23 August, viewed 27 September, <>.

Parkes, L and Faulkner, R 2017, ‘Why Context Matters: The Power Of Ethnography In Design’, Brand Quarterly, 25 September, viewed 27 September 2018, <>.

Header Image Source: RawPixel




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