Mobile: “The Pocket Ethnographer”

“Mobile is an ethnographer in their pocket.” said Chris Jones of BrainJuicer today at the ESOMAR Qualitative Conference.  He was speaking of their success using mobile phones to conduct “self-ethnography.”

His case study highlighted the differences between a brand’s segmentation definitions and how that people interact with that brand in real life.  For example, an oatmeal brand may think of oatmeal as being consumed in at the family breakfast table  in a cereal bowl with some fruit on top and a sprinkle of sugar or cinnamon.  In reality, that oatmeal may be consumed in a plastic bowl direct from the microwave and eaten in front of the television while the consumer also catches up on facebook posts.   Digital ethnography is becoming so much easier and less expensive that brand teams can use it to create a much more robust understanding of their brand segments.

A Nokia case study presented by Sharmila Subramanian of Face and Katherine Gough of Nokia also demonstrated the power and capabilities of mobile diaries used as ethnography.

These case studies support a trend we are seeing at 20|20 with LifeNotes mobile app.  Mobile is finally gaining the capabilities and penetration that we have been expecting for some time.  Researchers are taking advantage of these tools to take ethnography research methods to a much broader consumer base.  The triad of mobile limiting issues consisting of cost, capabilities and reach have now intersected and the research community is embracing it.

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