CPGmatters: Frito-Lay Gains Competitive Edge Using Ethnographic Research
By John Karolefski
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of
a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.
better understand the mindset of consumers in the store as well their
thinking beforehand and afterwards, Frito-Lay relies on deep insights
gathered by cultural anthropologists using ethnographic research.
is the study of people, according to Donna Romeo, group manager, consumer
strategy & insights, shopper marketing at Frito-Lay.
is holistic, which means that everything is important. Also, it’s about
context,” she said. “People are always culturally and socially situated.
There is something about them that is connected with somebody else. They
carry this context with them and it impacts how we make decisions. We
could have lots of numbers, but we need to understand the ‘why.'”
is an inductive research method that employs in-depth interviews, video,
analysis, participant observation, re-enactments and so forth. Frito-Lay
relies on Smart Revenue of Stamford, Conn. for its ethnographic research.
Lay outlined their 360 Shopping Process that aims to understand the food
shopping cycle from a holistic perspective using ethnography at a recent
presentation at the Shopper Insights in Action conference hosted in Chicago
by the Institute for International Research (IIR). The study was done
during the economic downturn and demonstrated the impact of the recession
wanted to understand what people do and when they do it,” said Ms. Romeo,
who is a cultural anthropologist. “and if ‘pre-shop’ really matters.
Is there a lot going on before people got to the store?”
Romeo said the study sample was small – only 38 in-depth interviews. “I
believe in small samples,” she said. “They can reveal tremendous amounts
of information that can generate factors for the eventual qualitative
three phases to today’s shopping routine:
(make list, gather coupons, research via web and word of mouth)
Experience (provide consistency in the store; use end caps as anchors)
- Post Shop
(food is easy to store in pantry and fridge; got value via deals; pleased
perhaps because of the recession, Mom has taken on more responsibilities
and sometimes opts to stay at home with young children, according to
three key insights:
- The New
Frugality (Mom bears the brunt of deciding no Disneyland vacation this
- Wants versus
needs (nutrition and main meals are first)
- More work
and less pleasure.
to the executives, the old model insufficiently combined market research,
marketing, sales, merchandising, operations, and external partners and
data sources. A new integrated model is consumer- and shopper- centric,
and internally and externally collaborative. The new model aims to optimize
pre-store and in-store media, marketing, and merchandising to increase
revenue and profits.
Questions: What is the potential as well as limitations of using ethnographic
research to understand consumers’ mindset? What’s the most efficient
way to gain insights into planned and unplanned buys at retail?