Ethnography and Coprophagia

I just filed an article for the January issue of The Advertiser on the topic of re-branding strategies. The consensus from my interviews was, not surprisingly, that marketers need to get really deep into consumer behavior and attitudes in order to figure out how to build (or rebuild) a relevant brand. One of the techniques gaining some traction with marketers is ethnography, a fancy word for observing people as they go about their daily lives. Procter & Gamble does a lot of this field research; Charles Schwab did it before launching its “Talk to Chuck” campaign.

I was thinking about all this yesterday as I conducted my own ethnographic study: watching my chocolate lab eat her poop in the front yard. This has been an annoying habit of hers for the past few years. At first, she dined only on frozen excrement in the winter (the “poopsicle”), but now her munching has turned into a year-round activity.

Beyond her fetid breath and room-clearing belches, this habit apparently is not harmful to the dog. It even has an official name: coprophagia. No one really seems to know definitively why dogs do it, though there are plenty of theories. And there are several options for addressing the problem, although the only foolproof one is clearing the soon-to-be snacks out of the yard soon after the dog does her doodie. It keeps me busy.

Anyway, this is the crux of the ethnography issue for marketers: As Brandtrust CEO Daryl Travis told me for the re-branding article, figuring out why humans behave the way they do is a lot harder than observing what they do. Cracking the “why” strikes me as the secret sauce for customer engagement. 


5 thoughts on “Ethnography and Coprophagia”

  1. If you want to break this habit try feeding the hound that $200 bottle of scotch.

    BTW, you do know you’re going to get a ton of hits for including that word on your site, right? And they ain’t gonna be looking for info about marketing …

  2. My dog is less (or more) descriminating. He prefers to root out tasty treats in the cat’s literbox. In fact he prefers tortoise shell tabby nuggets. I refer to his tasty treats as “Kitty Rocca.”
    Disgusting dog. I’m thinking about renaming him “Ernie.”
    happy vulture day!

  3. Coprophagia is a very difficult habit to break your dog of. You should first check with your vet to make sure it’s not health related.

    Most of the “treatments” for coprophagia are food additives that do nothing about the behavioral aspects. You should consult a trainer / dog behavior specialist to address the problem effectively.

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