“Creative ethnography” or the key to enter consumers’ homes without entering them

Before launching a new product or overhauling an existing one, companies need to know how their customers will perceive the change. Does this new drink fit with the target’s actual tastes? Do consumers like a skincare product’s new packaging? In addition, there may be also questions regarding product innovation. What place will this new coffee machine find in the consumer’s kitchen? How do men use skincare products? How do consumers buy summer shoes?

The “How” answered by ethnography

While it is easy to answer the question « do you like this new cheese flavour? » it is more complicated to ask someone to explain « how do you use it?». Ethnography is a great tool to learn more about consumers’ real habits. Instead of asking people to give examples of using a product, researchers go to a consumer’s kitchen and observe the consumption process. The ethnographer’s observation field can be a consumer’s home, a store, a street – all  “real” places to meet real people using products and services. The “field” differs from a traditional focus group by its “realness”.

The internet is the ethnographers’ new “field”

With increasing consumer usage of digital technologies, companies can revisit traditional research techniques such as ethnography in a new way.  From blogs to tweets to Facebook profiles there is a huge ethnographical database to explore on the web. Unfortunately this kind of information doesn’t always reflect all the dimensions of a consumer’s daily experience. People prefer posting videos about “partying” as opposed to “making salads”. The question remains unsolved: how do we enter people’s homes?

Is creativity the key?

It’s not always easy for consumers to accept sharing their daily lives and being observed by ethnographers. We’ve seen that it is not only a question of privacy. People “like” to reveal the individual details of their lives only if it is a funny or creative experience. Tapping into consumers’ creative potential can lead to expanding the company vision, develop better products but also make consumers more willing to share the intimate moments of their daily lives.

As an example let’s take a co-creation project run by eYeka and Philips. The creative conmmunity was asked to share its daily experience with Philips products: showing how they use the product and why they like it. In this video we see three sisters coming home. The oldest sister, who is still a little girl, prepares fresh juice for the others.  The video shows that the Philips Juicer is so simple to use that even children can use it. It also shows how making juice with the Philips Juicer can be fun.

Benenuts is a snack brand generally used as an aperitif. Consumers were challenged to come-up with ideas about what an ideal aperitif should be. This video shows in a humorous manner why the aperitif is so important in France. It is an opportunity for people to slow down and have real conversations with their friends, while drinking and snacking.

This project challenged the creative community to invent the best ways to use a new SFR device (SFR is a French telecom company) and to overcome older people’s reluctance to use technology. This video shows how the new device can bring back “old-fashioned means of communication” between grandparents and grandchildren such as storytelling.

At eYeka, we have been using creative ethnography through our co-creation challenges to gain consumer insights that mixes elements from the “real field” (consumer’s home, store, street, etc.) with the creative interpretation of the consumption process. Our findings so far: creative ethnography unlocks people’s home but also unlocks the gates to a prolific innovation pipeline. The pipeline that allows leading brands to re-invent their industry while keeping a competitive edge. So far 22 of the top 100 brands have successfully entered consumers’ homes. Would you like a set of keys too?


eYeka & Philips


eYeka & SFR Family Connect


eYeka & Benenuts


About indre

As Marketing & Evangelization Manager, Indre was one of the thinking heads of eYeka, and allowed us to be on the forefront of co-creation and Innovation topics. Indre studied sociology and communication, is a keen jazz musician, and now works in qualitative market research in Paris.
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