Ken Erickson

Ken C. Erickson is an assistant clinical professor at the Sonoco International Business Department at the Darla Moore School of Business. Erickson is president and CEO of Pacific Ethnography, a business research boutique that uses anthropological methods to address product design and marketing issues for global and national businesses.

Prior to joining the Moore School, he was profesor agregado in the master’s program in consumer behavior at Adolfo Ibañez University, Santiago, Chile; lecturer in anthropology at California State University, Long Beach, and at Copper Mountain College; and research associate professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. At the University of South Carolina, Erickson is charged with making ethnographic and anthropological research tools accessible and useful to future international business leaders. Erickson is an applied cultural anthropologist who is currently exploring cultural patterns in everyday life as these are expressed and contested through product purchase, use and sharing — that is, along the product itinerary. For example, research in China on a taken-for-granted product such as chewing gum opens new perspectives on both interpersonal life and enterprise effectiveness. Chewing gum in China can be part of the expression of masculinity and sociability at the small group level; it also brings to light the marketing and distribution problems of linking a global enterprise to both small, local retail businesses and big-box retailers.

Erickson, with some anthropologist colleagues, is also writing up some comparative ethnographic, cross-category research of organizational culture and business outcomes, documenting how internal organizational silos are made visible (and problematic) at retail. Erickson’s teaching emphasizes hands-on experience with cultural and language difference, whether dramatic (like the differences between Chinese and Brazilian retail settings) or subtle (like the differences among operational units in an enterprise). Students can expect to balance direct field experience with reading and discussing the scholarly work that undergirds such hands-on exploration. Erickson is a fluent speaker of Spanish and is sometimes capable in Mandarin, Vietnamese, French and Swedish. He is almost a journeyman stoneware potter.