How Can Anthropology Help Explain The Economy : The Indicator from Planet Money What do Kit Kat, dog food, and mask wearing have in common? You'll find the answer in the new book Anthro-Vision. We speak with its author, journalist and anthropologist, Gillian Tett.

Kit Kat, Puppies, And Masks: Anthro-Vision

Kit Kat, Puppies, And Masks: Anthro-Vision

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AFP Contributor/AFP via Getty Images
(Photo credit BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP via Getty Images)
AFP Contributor/AFP via Getty Images

Financial Times journalist Gillian Tett argues that anthropology is a useful way of looking at the economy in her new book Anthro-Vision. To illustrate the power of anthropology, Gillian takes us on a tour of Japan, Mars (the company), and New York City.

One goal of anthropology is to "make the strange familiar." For example, Nestlé executives were scratching their heads about lackluster Kit Kat sales in Japan. It took an anthropologist to discover teenagers on a Japanese island were giving each other Kit Kats as lucky charms before exams. That provided the seed of inspiration for a whole new way to market Kit Kats across Japan.

Another goal in anthropology is the inverse — to "make the familiar strange." Anthropology came to the rescue by pointing out that pet food marketing strategies have been running under misguided assumptions about what people value in pets.

Anthropology can also be used in public policy. While New Yorkers are not world famous for complying to group collectives, locally specific messaging like "New York Tough" helped change mask-wearing habits.

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