Craft Research to Unfold a Story

Digital ethnography:
an unparalled approach

Let’s face it, the only reason a company does research is to frame their message in a way that resonates with the customer and is meaningfully differentiated from the competition.

The methodologies we prefer allow us to dig deep enough to reveal unique human truths while also covering a swath that’s wide enough to unfold a resonant story. 

Untethered from geography so we get the greatest diversity of voices 

Flexible so the participant can engage in a way that fits their communication style 

Sparks creativity so we get the best insights, not just the best sound bytes

Designed for show, not just tell 

Familiar so methodology doesn’t get in the way of conversation 

Open to marinate on an idea, feeling, or experience and share over the course of days, weeks, or even months 

Conducted in their world —not research world— but respects privacy and boundaries so even introverts let us in

Brings us into their lives but allows them to simultaneously go on with their life

The only methodology that provides all of this is a social media style digital ethnography / category deep-dive. In the last few years we’ve entered thousands of lives, uncovered many thousands of insights, travailed countless thought-threads, and revealed powerful stories for our clients.

Let them show you.

For an upscale appliance manufacturer we explored the process of kitchen renovation. Participants explained their process and the resources they used which was essential. However, nothing could bring their vision to life like seeing the pre and post pictures (or the current and dream photos).

For an automotive company, we asked participants to show us their favorite things about their car. In doing so they created videos (or took photos) showing off elements they love. While a verbal description would have been understood, it would not have been as impactful as a photo or video.

Join them in their process.

For kitchen renovators still in the process of renovation we were able to immerse in their Houzz and Pinterest boards to explore the designs they were weighing. 

For a home search website we explored the process and resources of home buying over the course of several weeks.

Daily dairies ranged from 1 to 20 minutes and as the days went on, they became more open, sharing their stream of conscious about their searches. In the process, we nearly became friends with the participants and probably could have done the shopping for them.

For a car company, we explored how people use the Internet to shop for vehicles.

They took us through their search process, narrating where they are now and what information and inspiration they are looking for online.

Let them show you how it feels.

For an automotive company we explored feelings about loyalty programs. The images that represented how they feel about the programs being offered were quite telling because they showed a lack of authentic feeling and most of the time were just another ridiculous scheme.

Create visual libraries.

For a major corporation, we created an extensive visual dictionary of the large and small things that their consumers regard as innovation.

Respect their privacy, it creates trust.

For a spiritual institution we explored the view of yoga. This particular participant did videos each day — always off camera but always insightful and open.

For a major corporation, mom interviewed the family about life in their home. To protect their privacy they made and wore adorable paper plate masks. 

Take field trips, remotely.

For a car company we sent people on field trips to car dealerships. We ended up with an album of 200+ pictures of everything and anything that caught their eye or made them happy while there. They also filled diaries full of how the salesman made them feel (which was significantly less positive than the cute dog, vintage car, and nice wheels). 


“I chose a picture depicting chaos. Being an introvert a lot of me is inside. I look at the world and a lot of times am overwhelmed with all that is going on around me. I chose a picture of a complex knot to symbolize my interior world. I view myself to be very complex and like the knot it can take time to unravel me. I have always been a complex individual, but as I've gotten older and really understood myself I have embraced my complexity. I don't think there is anything that has created this change. I just view it as my personality and who I am."

“ did not go well. I'm not sure what I expected going into it, but it wasn't at all what I expected. We looked at a total of 8 homes, and while we did end up making an offer on one, it's VERY likely that we will not get it. Out of the 8, my wife, her grandmother, and our realtor were all pretty negative about 7 of them. Some, rightfully so, and others, they were in my opinion just being nit-picky and not open minded. And my wife is listening to everyone else more than me”

Get to know them in advance.

For a major corporation we over-recruited and pre-screened potential focus group participants to help us decide who to invite to the groups.

It takes a little extra time and money but the result is well worth it.

Of course, for nearly every project, we showed commercials, explored brand imagery and product attributes, talked about reasons for purchase, barriers, and frustrations. But you can visualize all that.