As an applied anthropologist, I’m interested in the ways in which anthropological insights can inform and enhance business practices. In a recent episode of the Kalicube Tuesdays podcast, I had the opportunity to discuss this topic in-depth, particularly as it relates to digital marketing. Let me share some key takeaways from our conversation.

Understanding Anthropology’s Relevance to Marketing

First off, let me clarify what anthropology is:

“Anthropology is the study of all things human. Applied anthropology, in the context of business, involves applying anthropological theories and methods to understand consumer behavior, organizational culture, and user experience.”

In my work, I’ve seen firsthand how leveraging anthropological research and insights allows marketers to gain a deeper understanding of what gives consumers meaning and value. This, in turn, empowers them to craft marketing messages and experiences that align with the needs and motivations of different groups.

Some key areas where I anthropology can inform digital marketing include:

  • Conducting qualitative research to uncover the beliefs, values and cultural factors influencing consumer behavior
  • Analyzing group dynamics to tailor messaging to specific segments
  • Studying user experience to optimize the customer journey

Moving Beyond AI-Generated Content

In the era of AI-powered writing tools, it’s easy to churn out generic content. However, I argue this is a missed opportunity:

“I think there’s an opportunity for everybody to move beyond the tools and incorporate more research that is not just desk-based research but qualitative research or other forms of quantitative research to bring depth to the writing that often doesn’t exist.”

While AI can help with outlining and research, the key to creating content that stands out is weaving in unique data, personal anecdotes, and original research. In my experience, some effective ways to do this include:

  • Incorporating quotes and stories from customer interviews
  • Using proprietary data to create original charts and graphics
  • Adding expert insights based on your company’s unique expertise and experience

Uncovering the “Unknown Unknowns”

One of the most compelling applications of anthropology in marketing is using it to explore uncharted territory – the “unknown unknowns.” As I explained in the podcast:

“Unknown unknowns are things we’re not aware of and don’t understand…There’s so much opportunity in the unknown unknowns, where new facts, new data, new ideas are created every single day. There’s so much for us to dig into instead of just doing the same kind of desk research that everybody else is doing.”

In my work, I’ve found that conducting original research and thought leadership around emerging topics allows brands to position themselves at the forefront of the conversation. While this approach requires long-term thinking and may not drive immediate ROI, it enables you to carve out a unique stance as a thought leader.

Bridging Anthropology and Branded Search

I also noted that anthropology and branded search have a reflexive relationship:

“Anthropology can help branded search by creating culturally relevant strategies grounded in research, and at the same time, branded search can influence the specialization and positioning of the individual or organization.”

Anthropological research can inform a more nuanced, audience-centric approach to branded search. Simultaneously, dominating the search results for your brand allows you to better shape public perception and thought leadership. It’s a virtuous cycle that I’ve observed in action.


Far from a dry academic discipline, I believe anthropology offers digital marketers a powerful lens for understanding audiences and creating resonant content experiences. By championing original research, exploring unknown territories, and infusing data with human stories, we can escape the echo chamber of generic content.

Importantly, this anthropological approach requires courage and long-term thinking. Not every “unknown” topic will be an overnight viral sensation. But by taking the time to understand what truly matters to your audience, you can build the kind of brand authority that lasts.

So how will you start leveraging anthropological thinking in your digital marketing? Let me know your thoughts!