For many years, she was the North American director of the Paris-based socio-cultural think tank, SocioVision. She is a popular speaker and has authored several books and articles. She sits on the Board of Directors of the IWPR, a Washington, DC think tank. She has three degrees and works in English and French.
Prior to founding Anerca, Karp was a cultural anthropologist. She pioneered the use of anthropological thinking in market research and her work has clearly demonstrated the value of looking at the marketplace through a cultural prism.
Quand Ellen parle, c’est comme si
When she speaks, it’s like all the lights suddenly go on in a dark room
Ellen founded Anerca in order to offer clients a deeper – yet more ‘real’ – exploration and interpretation of the way consumers live - their hopes, their needs and their dreams – and translate those insights for the global marketplace. Her innate creativity took her to Europe where she worked with European colleagues to develop advanced projective methods that have become standard throughout the industry. She has created unique and dynamic methodologies combining the best of European and North American research techniques on behalf of some of the world’s most iconic brands.
Karp was one of the few to apply anthropological thinking to the contemporary marketplace and to contemporary issues. At its inception, qualitative research was dominated by a psychological orientation and looked for forces that drove an individual to think and behave in a certain way.
The anthropological model is different and much more compelling – it studies how a culture influences thought, perception and behaviour. It was by interpreting the world through a cultural prism that Karp – one of the first to bring anthropological thought to marketing and marketing research - has been able to create her most powerful and original brands and products.
She has also always held there is no such thing as a ‘widget,’ a mere product. Every object used within a culture, from the simplest to the most complex, is imbued with meaning and exists in context. Deep level research that ferrets out meaning – be it philosophical, pragmatic or emotional – can then be transposed into strategies guaranteed to be successful as they align gracefully and smoothly with cultural needs.
What she has to say about the market is likely the most important thing any marketer has to hear today.
Karp predicted key trends well in advance of the marketplace
Clients have referred to her as
the rock star
The Annie Leibowitz
The big box home reno store: Well before Home Depot was a twinkle in anybody’s eye, Ellen approached a group of venture capitalists and suggested they buy up abandoned supermarkets and convert them to places where people could buy and learn about anything that was needed for home renovation and maintenance. (They didn’t.)
In 2008, the LOHAS pundits claimed that interest in sustainable, wholesome living was very niche and probably not sustainable. Having done her own research in the US, Ellen argued that it would soon go mainstream due to parents’ concerns about the viability of the food supply and the potential affects of toxicity on their kids. Two years later, the pundits were now talking about a mainstream phenomenon. At Anerca, we’d already advised our food clients to focus on real, authentic ingredients, no additives and little to no processing. As a result, Anerca clients launched the first BST free products
In 2009, Ellen authored a book about the post recession consumer, detailing 10 major sequential trends that would influence consumers’ thinking and lifestyle. It also featured 10 corollary trends and introduced concepts like “forensic consumerism” and “attuned marketing” that have been helpful to our clients in the subsequent years
and translates them into profoundly successful product,
marketing and advertising strategies
How Insoles Became Sexy – and Profitable
Implus, with its AIRPLUS brand, was a secondary brand with 3% market share at mass. Anerca was asked to develop strategies to double their market share. Over the course of a week, four 360º Brand and Category Probe™ sessions were held while Karp worked with multidisciplinary brand and NPD teams each morning.
At the end of the week, the core brand had been re-positioned and re-articulated and an exciting new brand and product category, Insoles “For Her” was created. Within weeks, it was extolled on Oprah, The View and in countless magazines. Revenues rose 400% and Implus’ share went from 3% to 10% in the USA and grew by 20% in Canada. Dr. Scholl’s soon followed with “Dr. Scholl’s For Her.”
She laid the foundation for a very strong new product and brand. What makes her very, very unique are detailed strategic and fully actionable recommendations.
How Diamond Marketing Changed Forever
DeBeers wanted to look at the American diamond market in a new way in order to develop a fresh understanding of the role of diamonds within people’s lives. Through work combining special creativity groups in the US and ethnographies in South India and elsewhere, Karp was able to uncover deeper, more universal and visionary explanations of the role of diamonds in the culture. Its first articulation was the addition of the tagline “For her past, present and future” to a lacklustre campaign.
As reported in the WSJ, “Sales of 3-stone pieces rose 74% (in the first year). DeBeers estimates that the current market for non-engagement or anniversary diamond rings is $3B compared with $4.3B for diamond engagement rings.”
Her contribution has been enormous. Since working with her, our advertising and marketing strategies have never been the same. She uncovers deep truths and translates them into profoundly successful product, marketing and advertising strategies
How We Took the "Scary"Out of Brand Migration
The world’s largest global brands in an important food category acquired another significant world player and decided to migrate two of its beloved US brands to the new one, a potentially risky proposition due to the brands’ very loyal fan base. Anerca was instrumental in executing an extended research program and helping create the migration, packaging redesign and communication strategies that resulted in a “graceful” migration, as well as continued growth for the new brand.
How A “Sketchy” Product Became More Wholesome
In 2015, an established food brand wanted to enter an already mature and saturated popular food product in the US market – but struggled to differentiate itself and gain traction. Anerca was engaged to diagnose and remedy the problem. Using Anerca’s exploratory methodology and Karp’s understanding of the food consumer’s ever-growing desire for foods that are authentic and simple, she was able to ferret out hidden concerns about the category and help the brand reformulate, reposition and repackage. The unique brand is making good noise at the shelf and business is growing.