Hey Look, Social Scientists Can Sell Stuff Too

Now in 2013, The Atlantic, no less, has discovered that marketing firms can take advantage of social science skills, including participant observation, too, and published a nice story about it here.


But perhaps they are a little late to the revelation.  I suspect that they could have walked across the hall to where advertising is sold for their magazine, and made the very same discovery, as indeed, cigarette manufacturers did decades ago!  But, I guess better late than never.


And for social scientists inclined toward such jobs, I suspect such stories are a relief from a sometimes discouraging academic job market!


3 thoughts on “Hey Look, Social Scientists Can Sell Stuff Too

  1. I really enjoyed the article and appreciated how thorough it was, but felt it a little odd that the author referred to ReD’s work as being at the “forefront of a new trend in market research”, given that people have been doing this for quite a while. Still, I think it’s great to get more PR for consumer ethnography since there are clearly many companies who do not use it.

  2. There was apparently an old school Harvard connection between the writer of the article and the founder of ReD which the writer obliquely acknowledged. Great advertising for ReD, but spreading the credit around would have been nicer.

    I also think that while applying the routines of ethnographic research to marketing research might be “newer” than Evans-Pritchard, marketers have long relied on different types of participant observation, whether explicit or not.

  3. Yep, anthropologists have been involved in design, innovation, marketing, advertising since the 50’s. I have noticed that at least once a year, I see an article that talking about this whole new trend of anthropology bringing a whole new way to uncover consumer behavior. When these articles are published, it is generally PR driven. Most, if not all design/innovation/strategy firms have in house or out of house staff that pitch articles to major publications from Business Week to travel mags.

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