media update’s Darren Gilbert spoke to Demographica’s CEO, Warren Moss, about the value that the agency finds in anthropology-driven marketing and why the agency is intent on using it.

What value does anthropology hold, especially within a B2B marketing context?

Before I delve into why it’s so valuable within a B2B context, it’ll be useful for me to break down modern marketing, pre-modern marketing, and post-modern marketing to provide better context.

Pre-modern marketing was all focused around big idea creativity and creating campaigns that evoked emotion. The biggest brands of the world were created during this time. Think Apple and Kodak Carousel.

Modern marketing is technology-driven with a big focus on data and analytics. It’s all about measurement, behavioural tracking and return on investment. The retargeting banner, while not the most pleasant experience, is a great example of modern marketing.

Having spent considerable time with Tom Stein, chairperson of global B2B agency Stein IAS, I’ve come to agree with his view on “post-modern” marketing - where deep creativity will be combined with modern technology, with human behaviour at the heart of it all.

If you believe that communication must truly resonate and connect with people and create a real chemistry, anthropology is the best research method to gain incredibly valuable insight for better-informed communication campaigns.

How does Demographica use anthropology to inform its strategies?

Anthropology is broadly done by ethnographic research, which is a very immersive process, and uses ‘key informants’ to find insights. These are people with specialised knowledge, networks or influence.

These individuals can be fundamental in discovering the complex decision-making journeys that businesses go on in order to make a B2B purchase. That said, observation within anthropological research is so important, particularly when it comes to verbal and non-verbal communication signals. Anthropologists are trained to look for things that a regular researcher isn’t able to identify.

Traditional market research has always been about observing research subjects. When it comes to anthropology, it’s all about the participants and their behaviour within a context.

Demographica has crafted a six-step strategic framework known as ‘The Demographica Way’ with anthropology at the very heart of it, which informs all of our strategies. One step is research, and anthropology is done within that step. Preceding that is the detailed discovery phase.

It is essential that detailed discovery and anthropological insights are covered early on in the process, before the creative, as the insight from those phases will impact the entire communication strategy. When the creative one-liners, which agencies would use for a campaign, are inspired by deep human insight, it provides something so powerful to inspire the creative.

Traditional marketing has always been about brands asking “what do my customers want” whereas what we’re having our clients ask is “what are my clients feeling? And how can we create meaningful communication to engage with that?”

What are the key differences between using anthropology to drive your marketing and your more traditional methods?

Anthropology is all about the study of human behaviour. Anthropologists are insight-gatherers; they deeply immerse themselves in understanding contexts and people, and what resonates with them.

The insights you would get from an anthropological exercise within a market are totally different to what clients would supply as their market research. Traditionally, campaigns are created off of the back of a strategic plan, which is usually informed by research and is largely market and product-based.

Anthropological research is fueled by and driven by human insight. It’s what makes the difference between communication that resonates and communication that is setting out to make a hard sell.

Within a B2B context, a lot of business products are quite similar - so how do they differ? By connecting with consumers. People buy from people – and more so, from people they like.

How do you create that chemistry? By allowing anthropology to inform communication strategies.

Anthropology is widely used in the tech and design industries around the world, but not so much in the local marketing space. Why do you think that is?

Anthropology, in general, is not widely known within South Africa. And more so than that, modern professions haven’t yet figured out how powerful anthropology is and its role within business.

Understanding of user experience (UX) is the closest profession to anthropology. What they’re trying to achieve is similar to anthropology, they just go about it differently with different training, processes and methodologies. A UX designer sets out to understand the context of the user to then design an experience for them. Anthropology is doing the same thing, but to design messaging.

What challenges do you face in using anthropology to lead your marketing strategies?

In the five years of us using anthropology to lead our strategies, we haven’t yet encountered any challenges. Our clients are curious to learn more about their customers, and are incredibly intrigued by what we do.

As such, they trust us implicitly with their brands, which minimises any challenges that could occur.

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Mercedes-Benz is a brand which is known for pushing the advertising envelope. Read more about their ventures with VR in our article, Plotting the future of advertising with Mercedes-Benz and Net#work BBDO.