Digital Ethnography and Farmers


The Challenge

We live in an increasingly contentious political climate. Nearly every discussion rooted in agriculture can quickly take a political spin, making it difficult for ag communicators to reach the right audience. In 2016, our client needed to understand differences across segments of the U.S. grain farming population and their motivations and preferred messaging for communication. What made 2016 particularly interesting was the impending election. The client had to complete the research while avoiding interference stemming from conversations surrounding the election.

The Results

Our Approach

Digital Ethnography Research

Digital ethnography is qualitative market research in an online space that observes social and cultural behaviors. The Look East team leveraged digital ethnography to examine the fears, motivations and beliefs of farmers objectively through observation without introducing bias through asking direct questions. Leveraging an online, real-time methodology allowed us to complete the research on a timeline that met the client goals and avoided interference with the 2016 election.

Persona Development

Consumer and communication research play such an important role in developing messaging for an organization. Look East developed a digital ethnography research report that categorized U.S. farmers into 5 distinct personas, complete with motivations, belief systems, preferred brands, share of population and share of voice.
Message Blueprint

With personas and associated psychographic details in-hand, the Look East team developed a set of messages that cover key topics to connect with the middle segments, most likely motivated by the organization’s message. This message blueprint guides all communication outreach and engagement in alignment with the overarching communication strategy.

Much like the political climate, the messages that resonated with each persona segment spanned the agricultural production spectrum. From only organic to America-first, crafting messages that fit the mission of the organization and targeted the largest audience within the five personas was an important deliverable.

The Results

The 2016 election has influenced communication styles. Because of this, in late 2017 the client wanted to re-assess the results of the digital ethnography to ensure the farmer personas and message blueprint were still relevant. After completing a digital ethnography refresh, we found that, across the spectrum of farmers, each extreme end has become more emboldened in their communication styles, slightly increasing their share of voice while the movable middle decreased in share of voice, collectively.

This information did not change the content of the message blueprint, however it did change the approach used in reaching the middle segments.