This was a question Desginsensory was faced with recently. While working on an integrated project with UT Extension to enhance both communities and the lives of its members in four rural west Tennessee counties, we needed a better understanding of our audience and their lifestyles when it came to healthy living. 

We partnered with Lancaster Market Intelligence to facilitate an ethnographic study to better understand the consumers in each of the four counties. An ethnographic study is an approach to qualitative research, which puts emphasis on an entire culture.

According to a survey by Columbia University decision researcher, Sheena Iyengar, the average American makes approximately 70 conscious decisions every day. In addition, a study conducted by MDI showed the number of ads that adults are now exposed to across all five media (TV, radio, Internet, newspapers and magazines) is about 360 per day; of these, only 150-155 are even noted, and far fewer make a strong enough impact to be recalled, make an impression and, ultimately, make a sale.

So, how do we reach and resonate with consumers when they are faced with so many choices? Based on social behavior, it’s easy to make assumptions. However, we knew in order to create messaging, we really needed to dig deep with the use of an ethnography study to understand how the communities live and consume on a daily basis.

“As marketers, we are engaged in a relentless effort to best understand human behavior, opinions and paradigms so effective products, services and communication devices can be developed and employed,” comments Chris Wise, chief research strategist. “We find it advantageous to not only conduct traditional research but to actually study WHAT they do along with what they SAY they do and understand.”

The study conducted by Lancaster allowed them to be fully immersed in the lives of the participants by observing and recording their action for a period of time.

Sixty people within the select counties were recruited to participate in the qualitative study—agreeing to record their sleeping, eating and leisure activities in a written journal and photographically.

 “It is one of the most intimate research tools marketers can use to truly understand and empathize with the population they desire to serve. Additionally, it helps manage any preconceived opinions so as to be ‘spot on’ with marketing activities geared toward the audience,” notes Wise.

The results of the study have given us an in-depth, up-close and personal look at day-to-day activities and key motivators of each community that we otherwise would not have known.

We, at Designsensory, firmly believe in collaborating with our clients to determine the best type of research needed in order to be as strategic and targeted with our brand and messaging as possible.