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College Students Learn About Marketing Through Trash

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College Students Learn About Marketing Through Trash

Posted: Oct 13 2017

Williston, N.D. - WSC's new Business Instructor & Business Program Coordinator, Leah Windnagle, took an ethnography exercise in her Principles of Marketing class to another level when she had trash bags from six Williston households delivered to her students September 12.

Ethnography is the study of consumers that relies on the interpretation of artifacts to draw conclusions about consumption. Windnagle chose an exercise where her students could interpret trash artifacts to figure out who their consumers were, how they lived, and how students could market to them in the future. 

"I wanted the students to understand the demographics of the household and what the socioeconomic status might be," explained Windnagle. "Initially they were grossed out by the idea when I handed each group a bag of trash, but they became more comfortable as they started developing the household profiles."

The twenty-five students grouped off, put on their plastic gloves, and dug into the trash of six diverse households ranging from singles and small families to grandparents with grandchildren.

At the end of the exercise, each group presented on its household based off its trash. "I was surprised with the accuracy," stated Windnagle. "I wanted them to understand who their consumers were," explained Windnagle. "We then took their research and visualized that we worked at a marketing firm in Williston. Based off the trash, each group had to develop particular products for a fast-food company and examine marketing mediums that would best reach their consumers."

In addition to the hands-on research, Windnagle and her students discussed netnography, a branch of ethnography that studies the behavior of online cultures and communities and how this research might help enhance their consumer profiles.

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