The latest issue of Trendwatching.com's newsletter is devoted to "Virtual Anthropology." Here's how they describe it:
Let's face it, the art of trend watching often isn't particularly academic. A mix of curiosity and open-mindedness, and a fascination with manifestations of the (seemingly) new will get you a long way.
And subsequently applying your findings and spottings and turning them into new goods, services and experiences for, or even better, with your customers is more about creativity and guts than about endless studies and number crunching. Sure, numbers are important, but more as evidence than as a starting point.
No wonder, then, that 'observing' and 'inspiration' are at the core of what trend watchers do, and that many of their activities could be described as a 'diet' (or in Europe: 'light') version of anthropology. To refresh your memory, anthropology consists of the study of mankind with a strong emphasis on fieldwork. To quote Saatchi & Saatchi honcho Kevin Roberts: "If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don't go to the zoo. Go to the jungle."
Their point is that the Generation C trend, among others, is providing millions of opportunities to practice this new art - whether it be through sorting through on-line photo, homemade video or webcam sites; reviewing blogs and online journals; or just looking for ideas by people watching or window shopping in some of the world's most inspirational cities.
In social marketing, we often talk about creating behavior and social change programs that are relevant to our audience's life, yet often all we know about these "lives" are a few demographic and epidemiological statistics, fragments of conversations from a few focus groups, and results of previous research studies. I have been a proponent of introducing more anthropological thinking and techniques into how social marketing conceives formative research studies. This newsletter extends the boundaries for how we can learn more about our lions, lionesses and cubs.
BTW - the article comes complete with multiple links to get your virtual anthropology studies started.