Netnography: The Marketer's Secret Ingredient

How Campbell's and other marketers are using the tools of anthropology online.

For millions of consumers, the sight or smell of Campbell's soup triggers nostalgic associations with comfort, warmth, family, and childhood. But when the 140-year-old company, based in Camden, New Jersey, was refining its designs for its online community,Campbell's Kitchen, brand managers concluded that traditional surveys and focus groups that tell them such things weren't providing the insights they needed.

There seemed to be an ingredient missing. So the soup giant turned to the emerging field of netnography to see if it could provide tools for understanding how the Internet was transforming the day-to-day habits and choices of their customers. "We used to be really relevant with consumers around meal planning, and we became less so over time," says Ciara O'Connell, manager of consumer insights. "We needed to know a lot more about online consumer behavior."

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