Small Business Anthropology

Posted: 17th July 2017

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By: Kay Heald

Small Business Anthropology

I always thought anthropology was something you studied in the deep recesses of a university college, along the corridor from archaeology!

Anthropology is a field of research which draws on social and biological sciences to understand human behaviour, interactions and cultures. However, it is also a growing area of study in the business world!

Large global corporations have been busy recruiting anthropologists for some years now. Analysing spreadsheets and big data can only go so far in understanding the vagaries of customers and employees. Whereas anthropology is proving very successful in challenging traditional assumptions, from spending patterns to organisational structures.

Anthropology and Adidas (a mini case study)

Adidas had focused its entire advertising and marketing campaigns on ‘being the best’ and winning competitions, but anthropological research fed back that most people who wore Adidas trainers wanted to exercise to lead a healthier life, not win races! Their customers’ definition of ‘sport’ had changed and this was only discovered when researchers took time to observe people’s daily lives.

Anthropology in Small Businesses

There has been a massive shift in consumer and work behaviour and attitudes since the turn of the century:

consumers no longer buy products – they buy experiences

workers are no longer machine parts – they are thinking, feeling, human beings

Once again it’s the smaller businesses that have the big advantage. Owner managers are already in the driving seat when it comes to observing and responding to human behaviour. They can interact with their customers, employees and workers far more easily than their corporate counterparts and tailor their services and communications to their different audiences both quickly and efficiently.

Small businesses just need to recognise this important competitive advantage and then think creatively in how they can capitalise on the latest social trends, cultural differences, technological advances and societal pressures to ensure people are always at the very heart of what they do and deliver.