Inspiring Brand Positionings with Mixed Qualitative Methods

A Case of Pet Food


  • Robert J. Morais



Qualitative research is often used by marketers to develop new brand positionings. This case illustrates how two sequentially applied qualitative approaches were used to generate positionings for a pet food brand. The methods included psychologically oriented focus groups and anthropologically informed ethnographies. When implemented independently by a single market research company, the two approaches inspired highly distinctive brand positionings. The focus groups sparked a positioning on the resolution of cognitive dissonance; the ethnographies spawned a positioning that entailed a re-conceptualization of the pet food category as a means to elevate the brand.  The case concludes by considering the merits and limitations of the methods and the interdisciplinary approach overall. This research design may have promise for marketing practitioners and academics, and for consumer anthropologists in particular who have concerns that mixed qualitative methods can compromise anthropology’s discipline-specific strengths.

Author Biography

Robert J. Morais

Robert J. Morais is a Lecturer in the Marketing Division at Columbia Business School. His industry experience includes 25 years with advertising agencies, rising to Chief Strategic Officer, and 11 years as a Principal and co-owner of marketing research firm Weinman Schnee Morais. Among his publications are two books on business anthropology: Advertising and Anthropology: Ethnographic Practice and Cultural Perspectives (co-authored) and Ethics in the Anthropology of Business: Explorations in Theory, Practice, and Pedagogy (co-edited). He is a founder of the Business Anthropology Community (



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