Welcome to our "Why I Love MR" Q&A Series! We have talked with both internal AMC Staff and some of our clients, so keep an eye out for fun interviews coming up exploring all the reasons why those of us who work in market research are so passionate about what we do! Interested in being interviewed and sharing why YOU love MR? Reach out to us.
Here we get a chance to know Ashley D'Annunzio, Director of Qualitative Insights at AMC Global, a little bit better...
A lot of little kids want to be astronauts, firefighters, or doctors when they grow up. Few five year olds would tell you, “When I get older, I want to be a QUALITATIVE market researcher!” How did you first get involved in market research, and what drew you to it?
ASHLEY: I, like so many of my peers, fell into qualitative research somewhat by accident. I studied advertising and psychology at Penn State and expected to follow that path straight into an ad agency. And while that was my reality, for a few months at least, I quickly realized that I was much more interested in the data and insights that were driving the decisions being made – more so than implementing the prescribed course of action. Then, after starting my career on the research vendor side, I fell in love with the creativity and flexibility of qualitative research. I’m naturally really curious and Qual is the perfect marriage of using innovative ways to engage and connect with people.
What has surprised you most about working in market research and insights?
ASHLEY: A pleasant surprise has been that, even after almost twelve years working in qualitative research, it’s still so exciting! Seriously. I get to do research across such a wide variety of categories that despite the accumulation of knowledge that occurs over time – I’m still always learning something new. It’s certainly a balance in leveraging expertise on a topic to help design and inform on a research plan – while also keeping your eyes and ears open to let the consumer’s voice guide you through these constantly-changing times.
During your career, what has been your favorite research project? Why?
ASHLEY:This feels a little like what I imagine asking a parent about their favorite child is like because I have worked on some pretty incredible research studies it’s difficult to choose just one.
With that being said, a recent favorite that comes to mind was a large exploratory study that was designed to obtain a foundational understanding of four skin care product categories. This research was conducted in both the US and in Asia so as you can imagine it was really interesting to immerse myself in understanding beauty standards, trends and motivations through this international lens.
In addition to the research being comprehensive in exploring current category behaviors, desired product attributes and considerations for the brand in their future innovation efforts – there was such high engagement and enthusiasm among the participants which makes Qualitative research so impactful. Using creative elicitation exercises I was able to get beyond just the functional product wants and needs uncover the aspirational product experience to provide product guidance at the product and brand levels.
Market research studies come in all shapes and sizes, from quick claims and message tests, to large and complex conjoint analysis, to getting your feet on the ground with in-depth qualitative interviews. What’s your favorite methodology or research approach?
ASHLEY: My favorite methodology is one that will get me as close to the consumers’ reality as possible. So, ideally, in-home ethnography, shop-alongs – even virtual methodologies have come a long way in bringing you along in consumers’ day-to-day lives through in the moment photo and video capture. Bonus points if this is a global study and I get to experience first-hand life in other countries and learn about different cultures.
What do you feel are hot topics and cutting-edge innovations in the market research field today? How do you feel this will shape the future of insights careers?
ASHLEY: How to best utilize tech will always be an interesting challenge and opportunity in the world of market research. While there is something to be said about traditional ways of doing things (don’t fix what’s not broken, right?) – it is critical to adapt with the changing environment and to evolve to better interact with consumers in ways that are engaging and effective. Online platforms to support virtual research methods have come a long way in allowing researchers to gain insight into consumer’s lives while they’re at home, at work and on-the-go.
As AI tools like ChatGPT become more common, it will be temping to begin incorporating them into Qual. However, in my opinion — nothing will ever fully replace the qualitative researcher that lead with empathy and develop a personal connection with respondents that can’t easily be replicated digitally.
At the end of the day, the key is doing our own due diligence in exploring and vetting the tools and tech that we keep in our toolboxes so we can make the best recommendations to meet the needs of our clients.
What would you tell someone who is considering a career in market research?
ASHLEY: I think they have a general idea but tend to simplify it by saying I do ‘focus groups’ or that I ‘talk to people’ for a living. Which, while true, is only a small part of the job. I tend to lead with some of the more exciting parts — emphasizing the product innovation side because it’s easy for friends and family conceptualize that when companies want to create a new product, improve a product, figure out what’s wrong with a product — they need to talk to consumers to figure out what to do.
Thank you, Ashley!
Why do YOU love market research? Let us know, and maybe you can be our next guest in this series!