We marketers love our little segments don’t we? We delight in taking large groups of unpredictable human beings and boiling them down into a neat and tidy digestible set of statistics and data which we can then label our “target”. Now there’s nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all. We need data to help us focus our energies in the right areas. But are everyday marketers making enough everyday observations? Point in case, this morning I decided to observe Mason, my four-year-old. Mason’s morning routine included getting up—a quick run to the potty and then he plops himself in front of the computer with a chilled, spill proof cup of apple juice. One of his favorite destinations is the Noggin site. I watched him on the site and what I noticed was that he spends his time doing a variety of different things. Sometimes he’s simply watching the videos on it—short segments from their assortment of programming. Other times he’s playing games. And every once in a while he’ll find something he can print out (we’ve got lot’s of those around the house).
I guess my "big insight" here is that Mason is choosing a variety of interactions on the computer vs. sitting in front of a video on the Boob Tube. But interestingly enough he’s not always interacting–sometimes he likes watching the video on the Web. My guess is that he likes the “on demand” nature of those videos—that he can control what he wants to watch, and he can replay whatever he likes. I think this tells us a lot about how future generations will digest and interact with content.
So I guess the point here is that you don’t have to be an ethnographer to think like one. As marketers, we can seize upon everyday opportunities to make observations that can help us do our jobs better. Data-driven reports, and even professional grade ethnographic studies are great. We should make the most of what they have to offer. But we can also supplement these resources with our own simple observations. We just need to make time to open our eyes and get past what we take at face value.