Q: David wonders, “Is ethnography a science our marketing staff should have? If it is, what form should the knowledge take? Basic level understanding with an ethnographic researcher on staff (or perhaps a relationship with a consulting ethnographer)? Any direction you can offer would be welcome.”
A: Hi David,
Over the last 10 years or so I’ve been in a position to witness somewhat of a paradigm shift within corporate America with respect to the acquisition of knowledge. When we started doing this work in the corporate setting, very few companies were doing ethnographic work. Now, ethnography is firmly rooted as a staple in many corporate tool kits. So, the first answer is, yes you should be familiar with ethnography and know when and how to use it.
Whether this should take the form of an in-house ethnographer or a relationship with a consultant (like Ethnographic Research, Inc.!) depends on the type of work you have to do. My sense is that most often the types of ethnographic research projects that the companies we talk to require more than a single person to accomplish the project goals and timelines. On the other hand, there are lots of advantages to having an in-house ethnographer.
Let me know if you would like to discuss further. Good luck to you,