Marissa Brown

Director, Qualitative Specialist

I'm a wanderer in every sense of the word. I've lived in the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, and now West coast. I've traveled to over 40 countries. I've dabbled in hobbies ranging from steel drum to mixed martial arts, and I tend to float around between different friend groups. Whether it's solo road-tripping through Iceland or simply trying out a new restaurant, I'm driven by the thrill and adventure of going new places, trying new things, and meeting new people. And if it's a total bust? No worries, I'll probably just laugh it off, knowing that it'll make a great story later.

How do you describe to other people what you do for a living?

I say that I get to talk to people and learn why they do what they do and think what they think. Sometimes it's in person; sometimes it's online or a video chat. And everyone's like, "Wait, what?! That's a real job?" And I'm like, "Yeah, and it's really awesome."

Why are you working in research?

I just have this infinite curiosity about people. I already enjoy meeting new people, trying new things, and learning new things; I'm a very intellectually curious person. So, to be able to learn about new categories and learn about people all the time—it's a no-brainer for me. I've always felt deep down that I wanted to learn from people and have that be a core component of my professional life.

What's your favorite type of research project to work on?

Co-creation workshops. I think they're the best of everything that I love about my job. I get to talk with real people, I get to talk with my clients, and my clients get to talk with real people—it makes for this really cool, collaborative conversation where everyone is learning directly from everyone else. And everyone is so highly engaged in the process. You can't check out—you're not behind a one-way mirror and watching people, you're not eating M&Ms® and multi-tasking—you are in it. And the sessions themselves are so cool. They're structured with activities, they're off-site, and there's just something really magical about them—it's a wholly unique experience. I always walk away from them so energized and thinking, "I love my job."

What's your favorite part of the research process?

There are two parts—the very beginning and the very end. I feel like an investigative reporter during those first few conversations with our clients, asking tons of questions and trying to really get at the challenge they're facing, the context of it, where this is coming from in their organization, how this information will be used, and what decisions are hinging on it. We only know however much of that window our clients let us see, and I feel like it's on me to understand as much as I can. The more I know going into the project, the better it's going to be in the long run.

And that leads to my other favorite part—the recommendations at the end. It's one thing to be able to synthesize the research and talk about it in a cohesive manner, but to take it to that next step and have permission to think creatively about what our clients can do with that information—that is super cool. We have the freedom to be bold and all-in on our clients' businesses and give them a real call-to-action. And to see their eyes light up when they get it, and they're on-board with what we're saying—that's when you know they're actually going to do something with this research, and that's the best.

Why is being people-first important to you?

It's easy to generalize people as nameless, faceless "consumers". We give them titles—brand users, lapsed users, non-users, etc.—and think we know all about them. But people aren't that simple. They have competing interests and constantly—evolving considerations. Their decision-making is often messy, and their actions sometime defy reason. It's on us to connect with these people and find their truth. And then convey that truth in a way that gets brands excited and inspires them to action.

What's one thing you love about working at Bovitz?

This is a no-brainer—it's the people. It's what jazzes me up in the morning when I'm sitting in traffic because I know when I get there, it's going to be worth it. We're going to laugh and learn new things and work together on new challenges, and it's going to be a great experience. Everyone is very questioning and challenges me to think differently. People are always asking "What about this?" or "What if we did it this way?" and having that challenge come from so many different directions improves me and my work.

Tell me about one of your colleagues.

Charlie asks lots of questions, which is great, because it makes me question how or why I do things the way that I do. I really appreciate his enthusiasm for learning and always wanting to improve. Sometimes I can get into a routine way of doing something, and it's nice that he brings a fresh perspective that allows me to reflect on that.

What's something that people tend to misunderstand about you?

My role is mostly qualitative, so I think that people may assume that I don't do quant or don't like quant, but that's not really the case. I'm definitely most passionate about qual research, but I actually come from a pretty technical background, believe it or not. It feels like I spent most of undergrad in a lab, and I spent over half my time in grad school in statistics classes. It worked out nicely too, because I only had to take a few more credits to earn a Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics. Though it's a much lesser part of my day-to-day now, I still enjoy diving into data sets and geeking out over multivariate and advanced analytics.

If you weren't working in research, what else would you be doing?

It would definitely be in the realm of training or teaching or coaching—which is weird because I still get a little anxious in front of big groups of people. But I think that nervous energy also excites me. I really like planning out activities and then giving instructions and watching people do the activity and be successful, and then debriefing afterward and hearing how it went for them. I really dig that stuff—putting all that thought into how to present the content, identifying which activities would really help it sink in, and then sharing that and seeing people get excited about it.

What inspires you?

People pushing themselves to their limits, whether it's their physical limits or emotional limits. Like people in Cirque du Soleil who hold their bodies at crazy angles—I think about the commitment that takes, and that's so inspiring. Or people who get out of their comfort zone and do something they've never done before. Like when I went skydiving, I was definitely pushing myself. That's the way I want to live my life—pushing myself and trying to become the best at whatever it is I want to master.

In the Industry: Since 2010

At Bovitz: Since 2015

Education: MS in Consumer & Sensory Science from Kansas State University; BS in Food Science from University of Delaware

Her best quality: Empathetic