Emilie Hitch, applied anthropologist and vice president at Broadhead, is trying to help the Minneapolis creative agency's clients and the public put into context the rapid changes the coronavirus pandemic has brought through a new online portal, Culture Shifts.
Culture Shifts traces business, social and other changes stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak in a graphical timeline. It also points to what Hitch terms the "multiple possible futures" that might lie ahead.
The portal grew out of a PowerPoint presentation Hitch has given to help clients navigate the transition from a pre-COVID-19 world to a post-pandemic one. This uncertain "betwixt and between" space that Hitch said we're now in is what she and other anthropologists refer to as the liminal phase.
What was Hitch's "mishmash of slides" now is a "cool data visualization" that tracks how people shop and connect differently, among other changing behaviors, thanks to the efforts of Broadhead's human-centered design, consumer behavior and creative-technology teams.
Hitch joined Broadhead in 2014 after a year with an innovation lab working to modernize farming in Southeast Asia. Before that she had run her own consultancy, doing strategic planning, marketing and advertising for clients primarily in agriculture.
Those experiences aligned with Broadhead's focus on farm, food and wellness brands as an independent, full-service marketing and creative agency. Broadhead adopted an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in 2018.
Hitch earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology from Yale and graduate and doctoral degrees in anthropology from the London School of Economics. She also has a master's in public affairs from the University Minnesota.
Q: What does an applied anthropologist do at a marketing/creative agency?
A: Culture is changing around us all the time and companies have to shift to meet it. It's thinking about how people's beliefs about the world shape what they do, how they act and what they believe and who they connect with and what decisions they make. When I finished grad school my first job was at an advertising agency and I found a great spot for satiating that business hunger and my ambition along with the complete passion and curiosity for why people do what they do.
Q: Who is the audience for Culture Shifts?
A: The agency has in mind that this will be a great way to show the way we think to our clients and prospective clients. We talk a lot about how you watch not just the industry you're in or the product you sell or the service you provide but the world around all of those people that your prospective customers might be or your prospective employees might be and being responsive. It's anyone looking for a little more context or bigger picture thinking around that.
Q: Why would Broadhead be a good choice for an agency?
A: Broadhead is really good about incorporating this longer-term thinking into the work we do. We're morphing into being a much more insights-driven organization. I don't mean that we're selling research projects to our clients. We're thinking much more about calling them devices or mechanisms for listening. We are continually learning. What we learn from one client to another strengthens the whole. We try to be top notch at applying insights to action, taking what we're learning and figuring out how it's relevant to our clients. We're just really smart.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.