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 Karen Lynch, Head of Content at Greenbook, 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 market researcher!” How did you first get involved in market research, and what drew you to it?
KAREN: Like others who have answered this question before me, my college coursework stimulated my interest. I was a marketing major, so of course I had coursework in market research. However, my sociology classes were my favorite. I was fascinated by the idea that there was a science dedicated to understanding how people behave within societies, including their cultural, economic, and social practices.
I wed the two interests in my first real job after graduation, beginning a career in qualitative research, studying consumer behavior, exploring preferences and decision-making processes. I never lost a fascination with human behavior and societal trends; I just pivoted to understand how those things shape market dynamics and consumer preferences.
What has surprised you most about working in market research and insights?
KAREN: It’s always human behavior that surprises me. I could regale you with stories about surprises during interviews and/or ethnographic studies (e.g., a respondent hitting on my client during an in-home despite numerous attempts to refocus him, another lifting me far above his head to save me from an attacking dog, that kind of thing).
Instead, I’ll tell you that I am mostly surprised how much people are willing to open up when you take the time to sit with them and ask them questions. We’re living in a world filled with individuals seeking connection, and one of the great privileges of being in market research is that we have the opportunity to offer them what they need. It’s quite something, really. Isn’t it?
Surprise! You’ve been given unlimited resources to study anything in the world. What does this passion project look like? What would you discover?
KAREN: I really would love to study behavior at the societal level. I was fascinated by our behavior during the pandemic, I’m fascinated at our adoption of online behavior. I’m curious now about our adoption of AI and think studying, by generation, current attitudes and perceptions would be intriguing work.
Now that I’m “in media” I’d be interested in studying our human consumption of it. The shift from reading to audio and where we are headed next, what children’s wants and needs are in programming compared to those of adults. I don’t know what I’ll discover, and that’s one of the things I love most about working in this field: you never know what you’ll learn, what you’ll find out, and where true insight will come from.
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?
KAREN: In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve always been a big fan of ethnography. I’ve been in the homes of people below the poverty level for a life insurance company. I’ve been in the back of the house of restaurants interviewing owners and chefs for a food service company. I’ve been called an angel, a friend. I’ve been invited to join a participant in their basement (hard pass) and asked to be set up with someone’s brother in the mountains of Appalachia (another hard pass). I’ve witnessed people, families, at work and play, and seen the love of couples far greater than anything I’ve experienced myself. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like applied ethnography.
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?
KAREN: Everything cutting edge right now is using non-human intelligence. And just as in one point of time we had to learn to use computers, and the internet, and mobile phones, today we all need to learn how to use AI. Personally and professionally. I know there is still some resistance, but the technology will be integrated into the restech platforms we use and influence the work we do in new ways moving forward. I really worry about people who aren’t leaning in; they will be left behind.
What would you tell someone who is considering a career in market research?
KAREN: First, consider if you want to study people or numbers. We are headed into a time when data and analytics will be running the industry; for some areas, this is already the reality. Shopper Insights, for example, is largely data-driven. So if numbers are interesting to you, learn data science, study how to look at patterns and anomalies on spreadsheets. If people are interesting to you, consider how you might humanize them in a data-driven field, leveling up your empathy and conversational skills. And early on, find yourself a mentor who can guide you and help you through some of the challenges you’ll face throughout your career. But jump in and go for it … the water is nice.
Thank you, Karen!
Why do YOU love market research? Let us know, and maybe you can be our next guest in this series!