This is a classic use-case these days. Organizations want to make a positive impact on the world, yet when insights teams study the potential upside of making such changes they are left disappointed by the results. 

Consider Food Waste as an example.

Food companies can do a lot in this area – to reduce their footprint (or should I say food-print) on waste and demonstrate clear results each quarter. So what holds them back? In most cases, it’s a combination of less-than-expected consumer interest and archaic ways of identifying sales targets for brands and categories. 

If you ‘size’ the interest in Reducing Food Waste in culture today (US example), you’ll find that it is relevant to about 45M Americans today. A multi-billion dollar organization will look at this culture and deem it to be ‘too small’. We can of course spend hours arguing about why organizations need to change their approach, but the Titanic cannot just make a U-Turn out of the blue. It requires time and coordination among hundreds if not thousands of people. In the meantime however, anthropology offers us a smart way to circumvent this ‘too small for us’ problem. 

You see, every culture (represented by topics like Food Waste) has related cultures that precede it and succeed it. Culture is constantly moving and ever evolving. Which means no matter where *something* currently lies, we can almost always find its cousins that lie before or after it in relevancy and maturity. Continuing on with the Food Waste example, even though the topic is only in Early Consensus and yet to reach mainstream acceptance, we can leverage our engine to identify related topics (as per the consumer) that are in fact relevant to a much broader audience.

For example, we discovered that the topic of leftovers (making interesting use of what’s in one’s fridge) is not only directly related to the topic of reducing food waste but is also a more mainstream version of the topic (relevant to more than 75M people as opposed to 45M). Which means if your organization wants to make a dent in the area of Food Waste but is afraid it will be relegated to a niche audience, it can employ an approach that begins with more mainstream versions of the culture (usually less specific), and slowly move itself into a more specific and concerted effort on reducing food waste. This way the organization could still create relevant solutions in this space for large audiences and gradually evolve its plans as culture itself evolves.

Let us imagine that you are a packaged food company. Instead of trying to address technical solutions in the area of food waste as your first step, you begin by creating specific solutions/kits that help consumers maximize the value of leftovers and minimize waste in their households (76M, 42% maturity). Then, as the culture of food waste reduction itself matures, you launch specific programs across your manufacturing process to effect a measurable decrease in food waste (45M, 24% maturity).

From there, you gradually evolve into specific strategies affecting the supply chain – especially of dairy and meat products (22M, 12% maturity). You do all this as you keep pace with the gradual evolution of each of these cultures with time ensuring that you are always lockstep with the consumer and their evolving needs.

This is the benefit of looking at trends and shifts through the lens of anthropology. It allows us to not just explore the areas that are of keen interest to our business, but also identify adjacencies that might open the door to fast track certain decisions that can have a significantly positive impact in the long-run.

What do you want to research today?