Advancing Women in Research – Q&A with Kristin Luck

Kristin Luck of Kristin Luck consulting has a deep history in research. She was one of the original pioneers of multi-media online research when she joined Nielsen to develop proprietary capabilities. In 2000 she left Nielsen to co-found OTX (Online Testing Exchange) where she drove strategy and operations. 

Like many of us, Kristin’s career path to research came from an unlikely source. She majored in Journalism in college with an emphasis on Public Relations. But, as she explains, “my training in PR allowed me to bring really solid writing and storytelling skills to my research practice. At the end of the day, a researcher is a storyteller. It’s our job to take masses of data and translate that into something meaningful that can deliver actionable results for clients.”

Luck launched Women in Research (WIRe) as an informal industry group in 2007. It has evolved into a global enterprise hosting events twice annually in 10 cities and supporting a one to one mentoring program, a monthly online business Q&A and a webinar series. She says, “I believe that women play a more important role than ever in our growing global economy, with 85% of all brand purchases today made by women. Yet, incredibly, only 3% of advertising agency creative directors are women. The future of successful brands (and successful research) is female informed. Women are key drivers of economic success; both in the board room (female led companies are 15% more likely to be profitable) and in the home but routinely remain an afterthought to both marketers and researchers.”

The statistics she relays are staggering, “Although women provide the muscle behind more than half of all research conducted today, less than 10% of the Honomichl 25 largest research firms have a woman at the helm. I believe that women burn with the same ambition that men do to change the world and build successful businesses and I see more and more of my female counterparts striking out to do just that – but we still have work to do, and that’s why I’m so passionate about my work with WIRe.”

CW: How has the field of research changed since you first started - if at all?

KL: Marketing research has been subject to the same technological advances that have transformed just about every other industry. The advent of the internet, mobile and the proliferation of content across platforms, means researchers are more challenged than ever to engage consumers. There’s also a lot more to measure! When I started my career in 1996, all brands cared about were the ROI of their television ads. Now that’s the least of their concerns. Determining the effectiveness of an advertising channel or providing meaningful guidance to our clients about which media are delivering the most impact changes daily with the proliferation of new content sources. It’s an exciting time to be a researcher!

CW: What have been some of your challenges in your career and how did you overcome them?

KL: I think the biggest challenge, and also the biggest “a-ha” moment has been learning to play to my strengths.  I was brought up in the generation of “practice makes perfect” so I think I spent a lot of time early in my career doing things I didn’t particularly enjoy because I felt “well, that’s what you do to make a living as a researcher”. What I realized over time is that what I really loved, what I was really good at was selling and marketing research. What I didn’t love was sitting at my desk all day, elbow deep in data, writing reports. And once I realized that, my career took a total pivot and I was not just more successful but infinitely happier.

CW: What advice can you give to women who are currently working in the research field?

KL: Don’t overanalyze the future. Dig in, work on what excites and energizes you and stay that course. I didn’t spend much time in my career thinking “I want to make VP by age 30” or “I really want to start this business but I’m not sure it’s going to work” or  “I want to have kids by 35 so maybe I shouldn’t ask for that promotion”. As it turns out I made VP at 26, built and ran (and sold) several super successful companies and still haven’t managed to find the time to have kids. But I’ve had an amazing ride because I just dug in and made it happen.

CW: What advice would you give students regarding a career in research and data?

KL: I’m always thrilled when I speak to students that are interested in pursuing a research career because it’s such an exciting time for data wonks. As marketers, we’re absolutely inundated with data, which presents so many opportunities for young researchers who are media and data savvy. My advice would be to give yourself permission to reject how researchers have traditionally worked with data and explore opportunities using new tools, techniques and data sources to deliver more meaningful insights. A few years ago I met a guy (Nick Drewe) at an event in Sydney who, with no formal research training, had managed to predict Australia’s Hot 100 music countdown using only open source social media data- an absolutely brilliant example of what you can do with a lot of data and a little creativity.

CW: Let's talk about your philosophy regarding data. How pivotal a role is data? Isn't it just a supportive function? How do you de-silo datasets? How do you decide what is good data (for correct decision-making) and which data is superfluous or even misleading?

KL: If you pay close attention (data is) literally everywhere. What’s “good” data and what’s “bad” is the subject of much debate in the research industry today. A few weeks ago Networked Insights (one of the speakers at the Crossroads Big Data Event) highlighted their research which attached a movie studio box office value on Twitter posts. I posted the article online and it prompted a fierce debate among some of the best known theatrical researchers in the business. There are a lot of differing opinions on the value of certain types of data and the utilization of primary versus secondary data.

CW: Tell me about the Big Data conference.

KL: The Crossroads Big Data Event is on May 14 in Manhattan ( I’m thrilled to serve as conference chair and I’m honored to have been able to collaborate with industry leaders and innovators in the big data space, including LG, AOL, Pandora and Mammut. As conference chair, I was also really committed to making sure we have a diverse speaker lineup. I think we’re the first big data conference in history to feature two female keynotes (Leslie Bradshaw of Made by Many and Inmar Givoni of Kobo) and nearly a 50/50 gender split across all presenters. In one day, we’ll be covering big data topics including machine learning, text analytics, mobile, virtual reality, the quantified self and social media predictive analytics. We also have THE marketing measurement industry thought leaders, including Gian Fulgoni (comScore), text analytics guru Tom Anderson (Anderson Analytics), Lauren Moores (dstillery) and Pranav Yadav of Neuro-Insight. It’s an unparalleled line up of brands and data wonks, making Crossroads THE big data event of the year. 

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