Final Reflections

22 06 2010

Going into this trip and knowing London was a big city, I was interested as to what patterns I would find out about autos, if any. However, right away we were given some very helpful information from the men at Flamingo International that in retrospect really summarized up the patterns we were going to be seeing in London in regards to autos. Alfie stated plain and simple “London streets are small, they end up being rich people traffic jams,” “almost no one drives in London.” It didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that not many people drive in London seeing that it is a major city, however I thought it was interesting that he described London streets as “rich people traffic jams.”

 Even more interesting to me was that unlike much of America where ones car is used as an extension of themself, Alfie stated that in London status cannot be played out using a car. There are just too many people and the public transportation system is widely available and very reliable. Perhaps what stuck in my mind the most about autos in London was how they are viewed by so many as toys. Something about the adverts for autos are now infantilizing. Because of the public transportation, cars are unnecessary in London, so it goes from a need to a want. Many people said that they wished they could drive more because it was fun!

Moving from London to Czech Republic I did not know what to expect, but anticipated that the use of autos and their role in the lives of Czech culture might be a little more prevalent than in the crowded streets of London. However, I was not expecting the roles of cars in the Czech Republic to be so significant.

It was during the lecture at the University of Economics that I started to realize the importance of a car and what it meant to the Czech people. Learning about the history of the Czech Republic, what it was like to live under a socialist government and the 1989 changes, made all the difference in the world to really understanding the roles and meanings attached to autos the Czech Republic.  

Unlike London, cars seem to be a big status symbol in Prague. As the men at Ogilvy stated “to Czech people having a car means that you have made it to some higher level of living.” The 1989 changes in Czech greatly affected the attitudes and habits that people currently have with their cars. To have and own a car is very precious seeing not that long ago during communist rule having a car in the Czech Republic was the ultimate luxury.

Overall, I learned a lot more from this trip than just about autos and advertising. It was interesting to realize how much history and how shaped by their heritage the people of London are. Just observing the people we visited such as Alfie at Flamingo International, or Sam, the bartender at Bombay, the way they spoke about advertising and spirits reflected their culture and roots in the arts and romanticism. Often Sam would compare the ingredients in Bombay to members of an orchestra, and squeezing a lemon in a way that was the most “romantic.” Alfie described some of the adverts as “poetic and sophisticated.” Seeing palaces and castles, and old traditions still continued really made me aware of what a young and new country America really is.

The whole experience (particularly in Prague) showed me how lucky we are to grow up under the assumption and optimistic belief that the world is at our feet. We look at life through such a different lens than Czech people do, and perhaps that is because we have not really had to live without freedom of choice and expression. Other countries do not have this sense of entitlement to anything they want that we do. We take for granted our way of life and under appreciate the ability to live the way we choose. I particularly realized this when the man at Remark talked about how we go about with a happy go lucky attitude, (although I think it is crucial to have an optimistic outlook on life and there is value in being even unrealistically optimistic), our attitudes just show how ignorant we are when it comes to the problems that others face and the fact that some people have faced hardships we will never have to and may never understand.

In a way, I also realized how similar people are becoming due to globalization and technology. When out at night or talking to Robbie in London we could talk about the same TV shows, the same musicians, movies, and sports teams. This was not necessarily the case in Prague since many people did not speak English, but there were many times when shopping in the same stores in Prague as I do here at home, listening to Lady Gaga over the speakers, where I almost forgot that I was half way around the world.

After being on this trip, all I want to do is travel. I want to experience other ways of life and the great things that countries outside the US have contributed to the world. I came away from this experience greatly  appreciating the lifestyle I have and the amazing things about the US, but also with the realization that America is not the only place that offers a nice life. There are places and people in the world just as amazing as those in America. 

– Jamie Murray


Final Reflections

21 06 2010

To break away from ones American eye and prior beliefs of the world can be hard. To fully submerge myself into a different culture to enrich my understanding of how different parts of the world operate and function is even harder. But the hardest part can be trying to understand the “unconscious meaning people all over the world apply to any given thing—a car, a type of food, a relationship, even a country” (Rapaille, 5). Traveling and studying in London, United Kingdom and Prague, Czech Republic have opened my eyes to a totally different view of the global marketplace and helped me understand how different cultures view different products.

Trying to break down what an automobile means to someone in a foreign country can be difficult when you haven’t fully immersed yourself into their culture. It takes more than a simple observation to conclude a cultural code for something. It takes time and skill to make a statement about one’s culture—you have to become a skilled ethnographer who can break away from personal views and look outside a specific lens. Being an American student, born and raised in Detroit, I have experienced a lot of cars and a lot of people who loved them. Everyone, for the most part, in the metropolitan Detroit area owns at least two cars and have made them a part of a daily routine—transportation, sport, hobby and free riding.

Traveling to the United Kingdom, I wasn’t sure what I was going to expect for such a large city. It was a lot like other big cities—New York City or Chicago—many various forms of public transportation were available that could take you in and out and all over the city. The “Tube”, or the “underground” was the most efficient way to get around—fast and easy for people to use. There was also a plethora of buses available and taxicabs for people. The main question I had in my mind was—why would anyone even need a car here? That was the focus for the next week. To delve deep down into the London culture and try to understand why one would need a car when so many other options were made available. After talking to many locals about autos and why people own them, we came to conclusion that people who owned cars outside the city primarily used their cars for errands but rarely took them into the city because of the congestion charges. We also found that if you lived in the city and owned a car—you had the means to afford one just for an additional item to have. A car to a Londoner is like a dessert – you can buy a simple dessert for cheap and it does just enough to get you by, or you can buy an expensive dessert that tastes like a luxurious dish.

Traveling to Prague was a complete newsflash when comparing it to London. The people itself represented a different crowd which showed a major difference in the cars that we saw. After talking to many people we learned that the average annual income was around $13,000 which reflected why many people didn’t own cars. Traveling to Prague was a very big learning experience, especially when hearing about the Velvet Revolution and how much that affected the lives of many people. The Velvet Revolution was a break away from communistic Czechoslovakia—it was a freedom for the people. Prior to the split in 1989, Czechs didn’t have many choices or opportunities to be different. A car to them is a symbol of hope. It is something so important and precious—an item that one tends to for life.

            The experience I had going on this trip was not only eye-opening to two brand new cultures, but it gave me a complete new look on the world. The way I view items today has changed—I really look into the necessities and essentials of particular products and try to understand why I want some things and how I use other products. Sometimes I find myself in a constant comparison to other people and I study the way that they are using a product reflecting back to the ethnography we studied in London and Prague. Everything everywhere is coded. Every code can be perceived in a different way by a different person. What a product is to me is, obviously, different to someone else.

This trip has taught me a lot about the London and Prague culture and about the people,but more importantly it taught me about myself and my views on the world. This class was an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and analyze and engage with the unknown. When you reach out of your norm, you learn about yourself. You learn that you use more than your eyes and ears when engaging in the marketplace.

When applying to this program we were asked to write an essay about ourselves and what we want to achieve, learn, and grow from this experience. I wrote that this opportunity will be an “enriching experience which will open my eyes to many adventures taking me beyond Marquette’s classroom walls. Immersing myself into a new culture and mastering challenges in a real workforce will being out an increased self-confidence and pride in myself at the end when I reflect on what I achieved.” I was right. This cultural experience has broadened my intellectual horizons and has deepened my knowledge and understanding of international, political, economical and the whole culture of mass media in the global marketplace.

-Bridget Moore

Final Reflection

14 06 2010

Eight days have passed since our program concluded. Three weeks may seem like a lot of time, but our trips to the UK and Czech Republic truly flew by, and I am sure my classmates would agree. 

Looking back on the course, I realized I grew not only as an ethnographer, but also a student and more importantly a person.

I came into this class looking at the world through an American lens, which is of course expected, but it hinders fully understanding people from other cultures.  

Going beyond reading about ethnography in the classroom and having hands on, practical experience in the field expanded my understanding of ethnography and helped me gain a much clearer picture of what it takes to truly observe other people’s behavior. I trained myself to not rely solely on visual elements but also tap into my auditory, olfactory, tactile, and taste senses.  

Using my senses and talking with locals, I learned a great deal about how people in London, Manchester, and Prague view and consume cars. While England and Czech Republic are both European nations, we noticed marked differences between the two countries in how people feel about and understand cars. 

In the UK, specifically London and Manchester, I noticed that despite a well connected public transit system, people still chose to own and drive cars.  Cars parked in London and Manchester consisted of mainly high performance vehicles such as BMW, Mercedes, and Range Rover. I also learned that many people, especially families, prefer to drive SUVs (or as they call then MPVs: multi purpose vehicles) even though parking is limited and at a premium and the roads can be extremely narrow. Putting these trends together, the idea of disposable income came to mind. People in London and Manchester did not need cars due to accessible and comprehensive public transportation but choose to have one for convenience and/or luxury, and they had the money to purchase one. Conversely, Prague illustrated a much different pattern. Czech peoples’ annual income ranges from $12,000-15,000, which clearly is significantly less than that of individuals from the UK. This major discrepancy in income is one explanation as to why car ownership is not as common in the Czech Republic as it is in the UK. Going beyond finances, a major difference in how cars are emotionally viewed exists between the two counties. In the Czech Republic, the Velvet Revolution and subsequent break from communism gave the Czech people a unique perspective on cars. Czechs view vehicles as precious because it was not too long ago that car ownership was extremely rare if not nearly non-existent in some areas. Czech people with memories of life before 1989 keep this in mind and therefore see cars as a symbol for hope and freedom. A car represents the idea that you are successful or that you have “made it.” Czech people do not want to take this feeling for granted and therefore see cars as being “precious.” 

Going through this process of identifying patterns brought the idea of culture codes to life. After reading “Culture Codes” I took away the importance of looking beyond the surface and seeking the emotional aspect that strikes a chord with people in that culture. From a marketing and advertising perspective, “Culture Codes” highlights the importance of creating messages that will resonate with each culture; trying to devise a single, unchanging global message is a waste of time and will miss the mark with many people. 

As I mentioned before, this course helped me grow as a person. I always thought I had a broad and open minded perspective of the world, but it became much more meaningful after experiencing other countries first hand and interacting with other people.  I enjoyed talking to locals most and seeing how their viewpoints compared and contrasted with mine.  Overall, this class reaffirmed the importance of understanding and accepting diverse opinions and ideas. 

Final Post: Reflection on the Class

8 06 2010

Sitting here today, writing this paper, I consider myself in a withdrawal phase from my European experience. I have never traveled so much in that amount of time.  I have never experience so much cultural shock before. I have never realized how big this world really is. I have, however, learned more than expected about the world and different cultures. I have grown to be a more responsible and aware citizen of the earth. I have had multiple intellectual discussions with those who are just as passionate for advertising as I am. I even went on a date.

Going into this class, I was expecting to learn how to track brands across countries. I couldn’t have been further off. While we did look at different brands across three different cities, that was only a minor facet of the class.

Ethnography is in my mind the most important tools that can be used to understand your consumer. It can be applied in the United States based on what region you are studying. It can also be applied on a global scale if you are working with a product or service that is in multiple countries. Learning this concept and learning out how to apply it, is what I took out of this class to the greatest extent.

This “Global Brand Tracking with Ethnography” class has taken on much more of a purpose in my life. In the past three weeks, I have learned global marketing strategy. I have seen how products are repositioned in different countries to cater to the consumers needs. In an ever expanding global market place, a worldwide view is needed.

“Introducing a product to a country is simple. All you have to do is follow these guidelines and steps.” This is a very common lecture start that is found in a lot of textbooks and classes that I have read and taken. In reality, they are right. However, for that product to be successful it is not that easy and it is certainly not simple.

In a previous blog post, I came to an epiphany. I believe that it applies perfectly to the conclusion I am trying to make here. In a paraphrased version, this class had made me confident in knowing my target market. By effectively using the cultural trends, a campaign that is unique and effective will result. With this campaign, it will have such a connection with the consumer that they will fall in love with your brand. Even if they do not have a want or need to purchase the product or service you are offering, this campaign will leave them with a positive brand experience.

This positive brand experience is what all marketers are striving for. Once this is accomplished, that person believes in your company and the message you are trying to convey. They will act as an ambassador to your brand to their family, friends, and other colleagues. Word of mouth. Positive word of mouth. The best kind of advertising. It is free, the most trust worthy, and effective.

Looking back over this class, I can honestly say that I have grown exponentially as an individual. I have become more of a global citizen. I have examined my own values and raised many ethical discussions that have helped shaped me as a person. I can go to a company and help them expand their product or service in ways they haven’t even imagined.

I am truly lucky and fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in this class and will use this knowledge for good and for the betterment of this planet.


Final Post: Ethnography at work

8 06 2010

I knew that automobiles were used in Europe, however, I had no idea to what extent they were used for. I did not know what types of people drove cars. For those who did, I was clueless as to reasons why they did.

The trends between the UK and Czech Republic were shocking, however, made perfect logical sense. One major aspect I noticed is that from the three cities we were in, it is not appropriate to use those as an entire countries’ representation. Therefore, I have taken a step back and have simply compared the cities that we traveled to and studied in.

In London and Manchester, public transportation was the go-to for the majority of the population. It was easy, reliable, and cost effective. Those who had cars fell into two categories: 1) status symbol and 2) actual need. Those who purchase the car for the status symbol reason had a high paying job and did not want to deal with the nuisances of public transportation. They accepted the fees associated with driving in the city on a daily basis and had no problem dealing with the daily congestion and stress of driving in a major city. With the second category of actually needing a car, this was more of a trend in the outskirts. Public transportation was used for regular daily activities, such as work. When those people used their cars, it was for necessary trips. These trips consisted of errands at stores and essential travel that public transportation could not provide for them.

During our time in Prague, there was an interesting dynamic to our ethnographic studies. In 1989, the people of the Czech Republic were freed from communist rule. This allowed for a free market to emerge and with that, a “new” nation was born. Twenty years after the revolution, I had the opportunity to see how cars were used and viewed first hand. In my research, there was a distinct difference between those who lived before and after that time. Those who lived before the time cared more about their cars. They had put a large sum of their income into the vehicle and cared for it as if it was part of their family. With those who were younger, they seemed to see it as a vehicle for transportation, with less emotional connection to the car.

When comparing these two countries, the “culture code” concept was running through my mind. Personally, I had a large amount of growth during this three week time period when it came to this topic. Cultures are vastly different depending on various factors. I believe that these factors are; tradition, long term history, short term history, and relations with the rest of the world. Once you understand those concepts, you can start to narrow in on a “code”. The most necessary tool to use is yourself. You have to personally go around and talk to people one on one. Find out what they value, why they use certain products, what attracts them to a particular brand, and other questions that get at essential emotional connections. Be honest, genuine, and candid and they will return answers in a likewise manner (for the most part…there are always a few outliers).


Summarizing the Roles of cars in London

4 06 2010

The past week in London we have been studying autos and the role that they play in the culture here. After talking with people, observing cars on the street and visiting dealerships I would say cars in London fit two roles: mobile adverts and luxury item.

It seems that in London almost every other car is painted as an advertisement for some product or service. ( This includes the double decker buses as well) Many of the taxis are coated on the sides with images and copy for something. This makes sense seeing that London is such a bustling place full of thousands of people roaming the streets forced to watch the advert cars pass by before crossing the street. Even though there are so many of these cars they still seem to stick out quite easily amongst the majority of black autos and taxis you see.

After serving as a medium for advertisements, cars really seem to be more about a luxury item for the people who own and use one in London. Because London has such available and efficient public transportation it is quite unneccessary to own a car in London. Also it ends up being extremely costly with congestion fees and parking tickets etc. To own a car in London serves as a luxury so you would not have to take public transportation, even though in reality the public transportaion may be quicker. Cars in London are prevalent but definately do not seem to be the first choice of getting around.


Wrapping up Prague.

4 06 2010

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller

Over the past 20 days we have been to three different major cities in two countries. It was a whirlwind of people watching, cultural observations, agency visits, and many adventures. Blogging was a daily occurrence and countless hours went into our class.

Speaking of our class, I looked back over my first post in Prague and realized that my initial observations went anywhere close to reality. I was focusing way too much on the physical attributes rather than targeting in on the many whys and whats of the matter.

Why does a Czech drive a car?

What do they value in a car?

Why don’t people with a car use public transportation?

What motivates someone to use a car?

These questions can go on and on. They all relate to one factor: emotional connection. The emotional connection that a Czech has with his/her car is the essential aspect that I have been trying to figure out.

Bringing everything together, I have noticed through my ethnographic research that people in the Czech Republic view cars as precious. An object that is sacred to them. An item that is proving to the world of their status.