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Patricia Sunderland July 2013

July 16, 2013

Anthropologist Patricia Sunderland of Practica Group LLC. talks about the role of anthropology in consumer research

Patricia Sunderland is a founding partner at Practica Group LLC, a small consumer research and consulting firm with offices in Chicagoand New York. She finds her background in anthropology critical to her work, as the firm conducts ethnographic research and anthropological analysis for various commercial clients. They are a team of five anthropologists, and Patricia says visual anthropology plays a critical role in what they provide:

“We often use photographs and video to document and represent research-so visual anthropology is on the forefront of our minds”.

According to Patricia, ethnography gained considerable popularity in consumer research during the late 1990s, proving a distinctive advantage to anthropologists like herself. As ethnography has established itself as a “must-have” in this field, Patricia notes that having formal anthropological training can be a significant plus in a world where ethnographic research is largely divorced from a formal anthropology background. She believes a strong background of anthropological theory and an ability to analyze with a sociocultural perspective are unique and valuable skills that can really differentiate you from others in this type of work.

For those interested in a career in consumer research, Patricia recommends first and foremost, solid cultural anthropology training. Second, she urges students to get involved with firms early, as many offer short-term freelance work on a variety of projects for graduate students.

“Working with a number of firms will give you exposure to varied types of projects and ways of approaching questions, as well as help you gain entry into a network of consumer research professionals”.

Patricia sees the NAPA Career Expo as another great opportunity for recent graduates, exposing them to the varied career possibilities that are out there for practicing anthropologists.
Qualitative marketing and market research and consulting in consumer and business markets, including ethnography, branding, business to business and high tech, consumer, domestic and international markets.

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