Unlocking messages that impact your target audiences

Digital ethnography is a completely different approach to discovering your target market. It reveals their deepest fears, motivation and beliefs – and provides the keys to unlocking messages that will impact them. 

In our noisy, congested world, it seems almost impossible to get consumers’ attention. How can you cut through the clutter to touch on what really matters to your target audience? 

Filling the research gap 

Typical market research to determine your target audience focuses on identifying consumers’ demographic characteristics and interests. While that is a start, it falls short of the information needed to craft a message that will pierce through the barrage of marketing to reach your target audience. 

Digital ethnography takes a unique approach to address two of the biggest challenges with survey research: 

  • People are dishonest. They usually don’t intend to deceive, but it’s human nature to want others to like us. When answering survey questions, people tend to give the response they think the surveyor is looking for, or what might make them seem smarter or more attractive. 
  • You can only get answers to the questions you ask. But you might not be asking the questions that get to the heart of what people really think about the issues you are studying. 

How it works 

Digital ethnography is based on the traditional method that observes people as they live and go about their daily lives. A traditional ethnographer may study another culture by living in a community for months or years, making observations about what people say, do, believe and feel. While this type of analysis is thorough and accurate, it is also time consuming and not very practical on a large scale. 

But the way we live in the digital age, along with sophisticated technology, provides an opportunity for a quicker and less invasive way to study people. Because so much of life is carried out online, social scientists use digital ethnography to observe the behavior of people by what they openly share in the digital realm. Digital analysis enables them to anonymously study thousands of people within a short time frame. By amalgamating the results from thousands of people, researchers can identify segments of the population who feel a certain way about specific issues.  

What it reveals 


The unique analysis provides a picture of your target audience unlike any you have seen before. It reveals the motivation behind their actions, things they would never reveal on a survey. 

Digital ethnography identifies four layers to consumer decisions: 

  • Behavior: Actions of the consumer, such as a purchase. 
  • Rationale: Reason the consumer gives for their action. 
  • Identity and Vulnerability: Consumers’ self identity and how a purchase or behavior contributes to their sense of who they are.  
  • Belief System: Often unconscious lens through which the consumer views the world. 

Putting it to work 

Several Look East clients have been able to utilize digital ethnography to reshape their messaging so that it gets to the heart of their target audience. The Center for Food Integrity used the tool to observe 8,500 consumers online across multiple social channels to determine how they are influenced regarding information about food. Like following a digital trail of breadcrumbs, CFI was able to assess what consumers actually do, not what they say they do.  

We helped CFI to identify five distinct personas based on segments of the population and how they perceive information about food. For instance, the “Scientific” is objective and makes decisions based on science. However, they are not able to simplify content and explain it to others. “Philosophers” evaluate scientific evidence, simplify it and share it with others. Digital ethnography also determined that while “Philosophers” only make up about 9 percent of the population, but they influence “Followers,” who represent nearly 40 percent of the population. 

Digital ethnography continues to evolve and our clients are finding that insights from the research leads to many useful applications that they didn’t originally anticipate. If you’re ready to take a deeper dive into the minds of your target audience, we can show you how to make digital ethnography work uniquely for you.