Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards finalist Lindsey Dickman, senior vice president of financial services, research and consulting, Escalent 

Editor's note: Lindsey Dickman, Escalent was selected as a finalist of the 2022 Researcher of the Year (Supplier) which is a category in the Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards. To find out more about the awards click here.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in MR?  

Read. Read what your company is publishing, read about your competitors, read industry publications for your vertical, read market research industry publications, read outside of your industry to draw connections, read what respected experts are releasing. We live in the age of information overload, so use that reality to your advantage. Each time you read something you’ll find five other things to read in a never-ending cycle. It will seem unmanageable, but if you keep at it, you’ll be surprised at just how much you can learn in a couple of years.

Expose yourself to as many aspects of research and business as you can. Ask colleagues questions, see if they’ll screen share while they work and seek examples. The more you understand how pieces fit together and what the end goal is for clients and colleagues alike, the more you can figure out how to work smart and be effective.

Build your personal brand, and establish yourself as someone with integrity and follow-through. Write to share your point of view. If you don’t have one yet, write to figure out what it is. Do the right thing, always. This applies to data quality, client service and relationships.

Establish and preserve relationships. Not only can they help you with work satisfaction and success, but MR is a small industry, and you’ll undoubtedly run into early connections again.

How do you see the marketing research industry changing in the next five years?  

I’ll start with what isn’t changing. This is an industry built on humans understanding humans: why, whether, when, how they do the things they do. That will continue to be the aim, and thank goodness for that as it’s what makes MR so appealing. Humans are fascinating, strange, wonderful creatures, and we get to be in the enviable position of unpacking that complexity to help improve their lives. Improve profits, too, but profits through improvement.

What is changing is that we’re getting better at that unpacking. We are increasing the lenses we can use to understand those humans. More and more, we shift from stated feedback to what can be determined and inferred. I’m reminded of the famous criticism by David Ogilvy that the “problem with market research is that people don’t think how they feel, they don’t say what they think and they don’t do what they say.” We are improving in using behavioral data to know what they do, applying System 1 techniques to identify what they truly think, and evolving tools. I’ll offer a second quote, “all behavior makes sense with enough information.” We’re in the business of seeking enough information, and we’re getting better at that each year. 

To address the more obvious category when we talk about change, technology: in this five-year timeframe, I expect we’ll see more incremental technology improvements that build upon existing ideas. I don’t expect we’ll solve some of the fundamental challenges that would take human researchers out of the equation soon, such as the errors humans bake into AI or how hard it is for a machine to pick up on language nuance. I do expect we’ll solve for that  – or a 99% solve for that  – over the very long term simply because I am perpetually bullish on humans’ abilities to solve mind bendingly difficult problems.

What has been your favorite part of being a researcher?  

This line of work has immediate selfish appeal, from its satisfying level of novelty to its natural opportunities for daily learning. I’ve often remarked on my great fortune to make a living out of being curious. Though that has fueled me from the start, I’ve grown a much greater appreciation over the years for the level of impact research can have. Our team has recently completed a project to help explore the use of touch credit cards for visually impaired users. Our Javelin division released a report on Child ID Theft, which resonates with me as a mom. One of the studies that contributed to the touching nomination for this award by my colleagues is a collaboration with WIPN, a nonprofit serving women in the retirement industry. I’m currently delivering multiple presentations to financial services companies to share the message that their efforts to increase diversity in an industry that desperately needs more diversity may be undone by the fact that women of color have more job barriers, lower job satisfaction and are more likely to leave the industry than others. These goals matter. These efforts matter. I’m proud to be in an industry contributing to them.