Future of Qualitative Research

Speaker interview: Understanding the human impact of the economic crisis

Can we measure the human impact of the economic crisis? We are excited to have Linda Mielnicki Light, Associate Director Global Insights at Mars joining us for Qual360 NA 2023. In our series of speaker interviews we asked Linda about her presentation topic, motivations for joining Qual360 and her view of the state of the industry.

Qual360: Without giving too much away – what is the core message of your talk and what would you like delegates to remember?

Linda: The core of my discussion is based on how we stitched together various research tools to build a deep perspective of human behaviors attributed to inflation.  We leaned into obvious qualitative tools like VoxPopMe to listen to what consumers were saying, but we also utilized MotiveBase to go a level deeper into cultural nuances to bring a truly global view to bear.  We even tapped into TikTok to bring in-the-moment human experiences to life across our organization.

Understanding the human impact of the economic crisis

Qual360: Why did you choose the topic of your talk?

Linda: I found we were doing a lot of digging into historical trends of the last great recession to model what might happen to our business in light of the current economic downturn, but we were not putting as much emphasis on human shifts that might take place.  Yes there is an economic effect on business to be sure, but there is also a significant human impact driven by this economic crisis.  Yes there are changes in shopping behavior, but I wanted to look at that in the context of broader behavior and attitudinal changes that are manifesting due to economic downturn.  It’s only part of the story to say to our organization that people are eating out less and eating at home more.  When we dig deeper, we can see that people are stressed because they cannot afford gas, thus they are taking public transport more often.  And since they are now beholden to train and bus schedules, their commute to work is longer.  And since they have less time at home, these at home meals are usually not happy affairs, they can be stress-filled because their meal prep is rushed, they eat late, etc.  That paints a more vivid picture and allows marketers and innovators to create solutions to human problems, not just business problems, in a more mindful way.

Qual360: What motivates you to join the QUAL360 conference and what are your expectations? 

Linda: I truly believe no one person has all the answers.  My intent in attending the conference is building upon the smart people that attend the conference!  I want to share the approach I took to building organizational understanding of a business and people problem, and I really want to learn from others about other techniques we can try and learn from in the future.  I also believe researchers working in smaller markets are going to be much more creative in leveraging new techniques and I hope to engage in great dialog with them!

Qual360: How do you envision the future of qualitative research and where do you see the industry heading?

Linda: New and emerging technologies are reshaping the research industry.  There is an evolution taking place in the industry right now.  I see smaller projects experimenting with new techniques, but when it comes to large scale qual/quant studies, we still continue to lean into qualitative in the same ways we have done for decades.  I would hope that we start to consider how to bring newer techniques into larger studies.  Our phones give us access to the most intimate details of people’s lives, and even their biological data throughout the day.  Most people do not even understand why they do what they do, so asking them a qualitative “why did you do that…” question is risky.  What if we utilize biometrics to start to develop the underlying biomechanical reason why someone did what they did? Or what if we were to be allowed access to their phones, their travel paths, their texting frequency, etc….There is so much more to learn about ourselves and about humans in general.  It’s a super exciting time to be alive!

Qual360: Last but not least, apart from work, what should delegates talk to you about at Qual360 – do you have any particular personal interests, hobbies or extracurricular activities and engagements?

Linda: I am most happy when I’m doing some type of physical activity.  I love the outdoors – kayaking and biking and hiking, and I have participated in several mud runs/obstacle races like Spartans.  Given I live in Chicago, when the weather turns cold I turn to weightlifting.  And I balance it all out with yoga and meditation.  New for me: this year I want to raise backyard chickens, so if you know of anyone who has tips on backyard chicken keeping, please seek me out!

Qual360: Linda, Thank you very much for answering these questions! We look forward to hearing more at Qual360 NA 2023!


Join Linda and over 120 quallies in Washington D.C this year at Qual360 NA 2023.  For a full overview of agenda and speakers visit na.qual360.com. Limited seats available.

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Curious to read more, check out some of our recent blogs:

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Jens Cornelissen

Jens Cornelissen has been writing for over two decades – initially for general newspapers in his home country Germany. After receiving an MA degree in Communications, he joined a new media start-up in Amsterdam as consultant on new media technologies and country editor for two daily newsletters. In his current day job, Jens runs the global conference division for Merlien’s dedicated marketing research events. Jens is a trained journalist with a BA in Journalism from Westminster University in London and has authored several media industry reports and articles on mobile and media technology.

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