Business ethnographies are a high level strategy, rarely used unless you’re dealing with some serious business theory nerds, like Cann Strategy.  We’re excited to share the magic of the business ethnography with you in this article so you too can understand how it could change a cannabis business’s entire competitive game with a just a moderate financial investment.


“The way we see the problem is the problem.” – Stephen Covey


Cannabis companies are constantly trying to figure out how to compete in the market.  They often fall in to the exact patterns that have been proven to be a sure fire way to drive a business to massive stress – cost cutting; a flow of discount deals; and constantly texting their customers. Business ethnographies will put you ahead of competitors by giving you better insights to up-level your cannabis business performance (you may be doing well, but you can always do better).  Further, business ethnography reports can be provided to potential buyers in the event that you’re looking to sell, giving your business more credibility and the potential buyer more reason to trust that buying your business is a good move.

Do these outcomes appeal to you? Keep reading…

What is a business ethnography and how can it help my cannabis business?

An ethnography is a qualitative research method born in the field of anthropology and a commonly used technique throughout the social sciences. Unlike focus groups, surveys, or market analysis, ethnographers seek to understand their human subjects by overserving and interacting with them in their natural environment — “the real world”.

Yes, a social science that can be used to help companies compete better, operate better, and likely generate more revenue!

Business ethnographies primarily focus on consumer attitudes and behaviors, and can also help identify internal deficiencies or problematic environments. It has become an incredibly insightful tool for small businesses and multinational conglomerates alike, and it could be the answer to your seemingly unsolvable problems.

This is super valuable for cannabis companies.  You’ll be ahead of the game implementing this practice NOW rather than waiting until everyone else is already doing it. Hear us out.

Why is it valuable?

A well-executed ethnography provides a wealth of detailed information unable to be captured through other qualitative and quantitative means. Surveys and focus groups are limited in their ability to accurately measure guest experience. Low response rates, inaccurate perceptions, vague memories, and even the social pressure of a focus group can all hinder or skew data results. It’s going to be difficult to identify the exact problem or pinpoint a solution if you’re working with incomplete or inaccurate information.

Ethnographies break through these barriers by going directly to their subjects’ environment and observing their ACTUAL experience over an extended period of time. Ethnographers may also embody the roles of their primary subjects, allowing them to explore the user dynamics firsthand and be fully immersed in the culture. For businesses, ethnographic research will glean a better understanding of the actual user perceptions of the brand and where there is opportunity for growth or improvement.

How does it work?

The most effective ethnographic research is grounded with a specific question or problem to be explored. For example, the infamous LEGO building blocks company restructured their business using qualitative research to better understand how kids around the world ACTUALLY play, how girls and boys differ in their play, what they value or prioritize in their creative processes, and how societies influence when and where play occurs.

Ethnographers rely on several tools to ensure they’re capturing a holistic understanding of the given micro-culture and the influences from the macro-culture, as applicable. The hallmark of ethnography is the “participant-observer” role of the researcher(s). In most studies, hundreds of hours are spent observing processes and interactions, generally in a “fly on the wall” fashion, but with occasional engagement in the relevant activities. The researcher diligently records roles, expectations, implications, exchanges, outcomes, and consequences for each relevant occurrence as raw data to be further analyzed and compared with supplementary data, both qualitative and quantitative.

Another common tool is conducting in-depth interviews with guests, employees, managers, community members, etc. Unlike a focus group with several participants, rigid structure, pre-planned questions, and allotted time, in-depth interviews are one on one conversations with minimal structure to allow for maximum rapport and navigating the collaboration to the most important topics at hand, therefore yielding high quality and reliable data!

This in-person research is frequently paired with photographic accounts and hundreds of hours of video footage to wholly assess the user experience beyond what is observed by the researcher or reported during interviews.  This gives researchers the opportunity to carefully analyze almost all aspects of the real world practices, extrapolating even more qualitative data and producing new avenues of inquiry.

How can business ethnography help my cannabis business?

You operate at a high-level position in your company, right?  You may think you have a complete understanding of what is happening on every other level?  What if you don’t?  What if there are overlooked details which could have a big impact on business performance if they were identified and improved upon?  That’s where a business ethnography comes in.

You’ve already got a third party to rock your first business ethnography.  Cann Strategy will perform an ethnography tailored to your goals. Understand your customers, employees, and community relations in a new and genuine way, and you’ll find new opportunities to exceed their expectations (Cann Strategy can help with that too).

Contact us today