When People Ask Why You’re Majoring In Anthropology, You Can Tell Them You’re Working To Improve Market Intelligence

Author, Scott Berkun, spoke to anthropologist, Grant McCracken, for the Harvard Business Review.
Here’s a small bit of what McCracken offered:

Anthropologists specialize in the study of culture, and culture matters in marketing because it supplies the infrastructure for thought and feeling in America. How consumers see the product, the service, or the pitch, these are largely shaped by the culture in their heads. The marketer who understands this culture has an advantage. The marketer who understands culture very well has an extraordinary advantage.

BTW, my friend Steph is an anthropologist working to help design automobiles and other products.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Interesting that the advertising profession is starting to pick up on the value of capturing (and steering) the cultural Zeitgeist.
    The deployment of anthropologists in this vein (as interpreters of culture) echoes some of the efforts of the US Army to map interpersonal relationships between Iraqis with embedded anthropologists (again, as interpreters of culture).
    Whereas marketing efforts to understand consumer culture are backed data-mining efforts (ala Facebook, web traffic analysis, and a variety of other vectors), Human Terrain Mapping has its own custom data-mining solution.
    It will be interesting to see what comes of these parallel anthropological efforts, no?

  2. As a strategist/account planner with a cultural anthropology background, I can’t overstate the discipline’s relevancy to advertising. My work is infinitely better because of my background.