Ever been flummoxed by a seemingly simple request for data?

We have. 

When starting work on a new project or for a new employer-client, we usually ask for more information than anyone’s supposed to have, ranging from brand guidelines to a pretty explicit picture of employees, internal customers, and external stakeholders. 

Of course, we could do the research ourselves (caveat:  Barbara is a former MSLS-type librarian).  On the other hand, what better way to immerse ourselves in the business – and get a great bead on the culture – than by reviewing all sorts of stats and surveys and guidelines, noting questions and some surprises, and then beginning a conversation with the folks inside?

That’s a best-case scenario, unfortunately. 

Many times, we get a high-level portrait of audiences, without the kinds of demographics (not to mention psychographics) we’d prefer.  Agreed:  There’s usually an enterprise IT system that can spit out information on groups.  Human resources and marketing/sales and corporate communications functions also provide decent pictures of the different stakeholders, inside and out. 

If, though, our mission is to drive behavior change(s) among specific audiences, we gotta dig deeper.  Knowing past and detailed responses to change events helps.  Segmentation’s even better.  So are the kinds of in-depth emotional customer studies often pioneered by ad agencies, or by the new data analytics software.

That’s our point.  Let’s take a cue or two from our business partners and corporations.  Intel, for instance, boasts an on-staff cultural anthropologist who provides her company a better understanding of how people, worldwide, use technology.  HP, IBM, and Microsoft also employ social scientists with similar skills.  Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille of The Culture Code (among other books) is another who applies that kind of thinking.

So why not an up-close, personal, and psychological look at the different internal groups that comprise our worlds?   After all, our employees buy our company’s products and use its services.  They interact with brands in much the same ways as our customers do.  Armed with that information, we’d proceed to developing and delivering plans that work hard to change behavior.

Sure beats digging to China.