Fast Company has an excellent article about Ethnography and Marketing. Researchers at Ogilvy & Mather follow people, watching their every move, in order to see how they really act rather than how they say they would act. Don’t worry – the people are willing subjects and are paid for their time. They document everything in order to understand how people think and act. The upshot is that Marketing can be much more effective when specifically tuned to the potential customer – perhaps even recreating their entire world, including the product to be sold and how it would fit in.
Companies have tried lifestyle marketing (i.e. beer and attractive women), but I’ve noticed that these correlations do not always occur in real life. If research could detect real patterns in how people act, then they could market products much more effectively by understanding how the product really fits into my personality.
Years ago I used to watch Saturday Night Live. Every Saturday at midnight there was a commercial for Mr. Big candy bars. Unfortunately there were no stores open that late where I lived, but every Saturday night I salivated over that candy bar, wishing I had one. Unfortunately the feeling did not linger until ther stores were open again. Perhaps if someone had researched how I purchased candy bars and how quickly I ate them, the marketing might have stuck.