Part 1 of 4: Leveraging Product Anthropology in Dev & Launch

Jun 13, 2023 | Innovation, Product Anthropology, Product Development

4 Part Series: Product Life Cycle Mastery: Through An Anthropological Lens

Part 1 of 4: Leveraging Product Anthropology in the Development Stage: A Holistic Approach to Prototype Design and Launch Strategy

 I.  Introduction: Understanding the Interplay of Culture and Product Development

In the ever-changing terrain of product development and design, a novel discipline—product anthropology—has taken center stage.  Product anthropology marries the principles of anthropology, a branch of science that deals with human societies and cultures, and product development methodologies, providing a far more comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior.

Product anthropology aims to gain a deeper insight into the cultural, societal, and individual human behaviors that shape consumer expectations and desires.  By doing so, it aims to deliver products that not just meet but exceed these expectations.  Therefore, This unique approach goes beyond the usual dimensions of product development, influencing a product’s design and launch strategy.

The integration of anthropology with product development allows a more holistic approach, laying the groundwork for creating products that are intuitive, relatable, and ultimately more successful.  It’s akin to viewing product design through a cultural lens, catering more effectively to consumer needs and demands.

Consider the inception of “Fairphone” in The Netherlands. It’s a smartphone designed with sustainability and fairness in mind.  Leveraging product anthropology, the creators understood the consumer’s growing concern for ethical sourcing and fair trade.  This understanding led to a product that caters to these very societal trends, resulting in a well-received and financially successful product.

II.  The Role of Product Anthropology in Early Development and Research: Crafting Culturally Attuned Designs

At the dawn of product development, understanding the cultural, societal, and individual human behaviors is an integral part of the design process.  Cultural inclinations could define the color palette of a product, societal dynamics could influence its attributes, and individual behaviors might delineate its usability.

Product anthropology in this stage helps shape the initial design and prototype development by providing a rich, holistic backdrop against which to mold the product.  It surpasses superficial aspects, diving deep into the core factors governing human-product interactions.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the case of developing a mobile app for farmers in India.  Here, product anthropologists played a crucial role in uncovering key behavioral insights, such as the preference for voice prompts due to low literacy rates.  These insights drastically influenced the app’s design, contributing to its wide acceptance among the target audience.  This example sheds light on how incorporating product anthropology from the inception of a product can dramatically impact its acceptance and success in the target market.

III.  Creation of Buzz Around the Product: Capturing Public Interest through Cultural Understanding

Product anthropologists have a significant role in generating early buzz for a product.  They do this by understanding the cultural and societal norms of the target demographic and creating narratives that hit home with potential consumers, thereby sparking interest and anticipation.

These narratives, designed through the lens of cultural understanding, are used in targeted demographic engagement, where product anthropologists formulate strategies for reaching out to the intended audience.  The stories seamlessly link the product to the lifestyle of potential consumers, making it relatable, appealing, and, more importantly, desirable.

IV.  Securing Endorsements: The Cultural Significance of Influencers

Product anthropology plays a pivotal role in securing endorsements for a product, particularly when harnessing the influence of social media personalities.  One of the key factors behind the selection of influencers for endorsement deals is their cultural connection with their followers.

Understanding the cultural dimensions of the influencer and their audience aids in crafting endorsement strategies that are more effective and relevant.  For instance, research suggests that in collectivist and feminine cultures, endorsements focus on the emotional competence of the digital influencer and aim at fostering interaction.  Conversely, in individualistic and masculine cultures, the endorsement posts highlight the informational competence of the influencer, focusing more on the endorser’s self-promotion.

This comprehension of cultural traits aids brands in establishing a stronger connection with their target audience, as it allows the influencer’s narrative to resonate more effectively with their followers’ cultural context.  This approach not only enhances the impact of the marketing communication strategy but also assists in building the influencer’s narrative in a culturally congruent way with their audience.

The case of Charli D’Amelio, a social media influencer with millions of followers, illustrates the power of leveraging cultural dimensions for endorsements.  At the young age of 15, D’Amelio gained widespread fame, subsequently leading to endorsement deals and other promotional endeavors.  Such popularity is indicative of influencer culture, where individuals accrue media attention that can be translated into promotional endeavors.

The rise of social media influencers has opened new pathways for endorsing products.  Unlike traditional celebrities who earn fame through institutional means like sports, television, music, and movies, social media influencers gain popularity primarily through the Internet.  Their endorsement activities are often intertwined with their fame, allowing them to influence consumer behavior in a way that’s different from traditional celebrities.

Furthermore, the cultural dimensions that come into play in endorsements also hold a significant bearing on the effectiveness of advertising.  Whether the endorsement comes from a traditional celebrity or an influencer, the cultural implications will vary in terms of attitude toward the advertisement, the advertised product, and purchase intention.

V. Early Consumer Research

Early consumer research is a critical element in developing any product or service.  By utilizing product anthropology to gain a deep understanding of consumer needs, behaviors, and desires, companies can design products that are highly aligned with these insights, significantly boosting their chances of success.

For example, ethnographic research—a central method in product anthropology—employs in-depth observation of the target market in their natural environment, offering valuable insights that go far beyond traditional market research methods.  The classic case of Intel illustrates this.  In the mid-1990s, Intel used ethnographic research to determine if home users would constitute a distinct market.  The research revealed significant potential, leading Intel to set up a unit focused on processors and platforms for home use.  This example highlights the power of early consumer research in shaping both product development and launch strategy.

Moreover, product anthropology allows businesses to understand their consumers on a more profound level.  Let’s consider Google’s utilization of anthropologists to observe people using mobile devices.  This strategy led to an enhanced understanding of why people use their phones, not just what they do on them, resulting in improved mobile interactions.  Hence, early consumer research using product anthropology has direct implications for product design and functionality, ultimately driving product success.

VI.  Conclusion

In summary, the application of product anthropology offers a unique and compelling approach to shaping product development and launch strategy.  It opens up an avenue for companies to understand their consumers on a deeper level, crafting products that align seamlessly with their lifestyles, values, and cultural contexts.

The inclusion of product anthropology in product development and launch strategies brings forth a plethora of benefits.  It allows for creating more intuitive, user-friendly, and culturally sensitive products, enhancing consumer satisfaction and overall product success.

As the business landscape continues to evolve, the role of product anthropology is projected to become even more integral to effective business strategies.  Its application paints a future where products are not just mere tools but thoughtful extensions of our societal norms, culture, and individual behaviors.

If your company is looking to capitalize on these opportunities and harness the transformative power of product anthropology, there’s no better time than now to get started.  For expert guidance, contact me, Paula Gray, the Product Anthropologist at Gray Global Consulting LLC.

With a deep understanding of the intricate dynamics between people, products, and cultural landscapes, my team and I at Gray Global Consulting offer a wealth of invaluable insights and actionable strategies to elevate your product design, marketing, and communication.

Experience the transformative power of product anthropology in action and drive your business success to unprecedented heights.  Contact Paula Gray and the Gray Global Consulting team today.