Monday, May 9, 2016

Selfies as Self-Ethnographic Research

Marketing researchers want to know how and when their products are used, not just who is using them. Surveys and focus groups are helpful, but ethnography is another tool for observing product use in the real world--real people, real products, real shopping or usage situations.

Audi used ethnographic research in Australia to better understand the context of the local car-buying situation and used that research to inform the development of segment personas. As a result, Audi now has a series of brand touchpoints it has mapped and can target with marketing objectives for each contact. General Motors had ethnographic research and personas, but it needed to add emotion to the equation in order to make sense out of the data and apply the results to a marketing strategy.

Selfies are the next frontier in ethnographic research, with consumers using an app to snap and upload photos showing a product or process in use. Crest has used selfies collected by Pay Your Selfie to better understand when people brush their teeth. Based on the selfie research, Crest's marketers learned about a spike in brushing before dinner--perhaps related to a desire for fresh-smelling breath before happy hour?

One startup, Pay Your Selfie, allows marketers to go where they rarely have access, inside the consumer's real life. Rather than ask someone to describe what they do, a selfie shows the consumer interacting with a brand or product. An ad agency exec for Leo Burnett notes: "From a research perspective, we often ask people to describe what their morning is like in surveys. But a quick picture of their table would definitely be worth 1,000 words."

Selfie-takers get a small amount of money for each "task" they complete, such as snapping a selfie while brushing their teeth. Clearly, the sample for these research studies is limited and self-selecting. But the possibility of stepping into the consumer's world is very intriguing and can yield insights for future marketing plans. Pay Your Selfie is also into political research. Self-ethnographic research is still in its infancy. What next?

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