The Cult Marketing ethnography team has been on the road for months delving into America’s consumer subcultures in search of information and insights. We get many questions about how the ethnography research process works. So, here’s a glimpse at a week in the life of a Cult ethnographer.

Day 1, Charlotte, NC: The two Cult field teams are greeted by snow in Charlotte. Usually not a problem for the teams, but Charlotte is completely unprepared for snow. Except for the main highways, the streets are not cleared and quickly turn to ice. Team #2 goes on an interview in the boonies, follows the GPS to a dead-end road that looks like something out of Deliverance. They get stuck on an ice patch near a secluded, run-down shack with a “Trespassers Will be Shot” sign on the front fence. They eventually made it to the interview and had fun with a big, burly, engaging guy with the name of Ashley.

Day 2, Charlotte: Team #1 drives 50 miles through the snow to visit a really cool outdoor store in the middle of nowhere. If you like the smell of guns, you’d love this place. Got some great insights from the store owner on the decision-making process for outdoor and work apparel and footwear. That night, we begin the data download process. We have new hi-tech cameras with 120 gig hard drives. No more video tapes. We are able to download the interview video files online so our analysts can start processing information right away. Isn’t technology cool?

Day 3, Houston, TX: The Cult team #1 finds itself in a terrible neighborhood. The team is questioning whether or not they should go into the house for safety reasons. The neighborhood appears to be a drug dealer’s paradise. [Cult prefers to send teams of two into the field for safety reasons – usually a male and a female.] After some discussion the team knocks on the door and is welcomed by the research subject, a well-educated, articulate, fanatical brand person who ended up to be a great interview. Team #2 is conducting a shop-along in a mom-and-pop store in the Houston burbs when they find out that their rental car was sideswiped by a dually truck driven by a man with one arm and a prosthetic hook. His honesty is appreciated. Later that night the teams compare notes at Beavers Ice Haus, an upbeat gastropub.

Day 4, Houston, TX: Superbowl Sunday! The teams got in two interviews each. One of the team #2 members is allergic to dogs, so naturally every house she goes into has one, including a 3-legged dog that had its leg surgically removed due to cancer. The interviewee tearfully accepted the incentive check and said it would go to chemo treatments for her beloved golden retriever. Both teams finished early enough to watch the Superbowl game from a pub downtown.

Day 5, Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis in February is interesting. People here love the winter activities like ice fishing, snowmobiling, and skating. The high temperature was 7 degrees. There were scenes right out of Fargo, but in general the people of Minneapolis are as happy as clams. One young interviewee was excited too be going out later at night to shoot coyotes with his buddies. We learned that you must wear white winter gear and have a clear night with a prominent moon.

Day 6, Minneapolis: After a fascinating interview with a large, energetic woman with a classic Minnesota accent, we were invited to join her ice fishing. We had to run to the airport, but it would have been fun to check out. People have ice fishing houses with heaters, beer coolers, TVs, and plush chairs. It’s like a living room on ice. Maybe next time…

Day 7, Las Vegas, NV: The teams split up. One team went home to Columbus to start working on the key strategic insights; the other to the desert to attend a big trade show. One of the challenges of ethnography is packing for 10-day trips that include frigid temperatures and desert sun. Maybe our next project will be for a luggage company?

1 reply
  1. Mike Elkind
    Mike Elkind says:

    Doug,
    Please let me know who on your team is allergic to dogs so we can clean the room before our next meeting( and you thought I didn’t read these things).
    Mike

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