Kimberly Dixon-Mays

Senior Insights Strategist — Qualitative Market Research 

My experience:

My experience is full of “both/ands.” In my 20-year agency career, I’ve worked in as a brand/strategy planner for both advertising and PR, and design and arts programming, to reach both consumers/users/audiences/patients and professionals. I’ve led numerous qualitative research projects – designing plans, directing questionnaire development, crafting stimuli, moderating, and framing insights and reports – for both focus groups and immersive street interviews, on-site ethnographies and in-store shopalongs. (I’ve also designed and analyzed quantitative research such as attitude and behavior surveys, response tracking, and segmentation studies.) Lastly, because Planners deal in both insights and strategy, I’ve also led the translation of research insights into action, shaping clients’ communications, products, services and other brand expressions.

Before becoming a researcher and strategist, I earned a B.A. in Psychology and Theater Studies at Yale, an M.A. in Afro-American Studies (playwriting concentration) at UCLA, and a PhD in Theatre & Drama (with a certificate in Women’s Studies) at Northwestern.

Categories I’ve worked in:

  • Financial Services
  • Consumer electronics
  • Retail
  • Biotech
  • Professional and industry associations
  • Frozen/Refrigerated Foods
  • Agriculture
  • Fashion
  • Healthcare and Health Insurance
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Casual Dining and Quick service restaurants
  • Sports/fitness

My approach to marketing research:

My educational background informs my approach. My psychology training enables me to view consumer attitudes and behaviors as an expression of their identity, and to conduct research in ways that dig into that deeper meaning. Meanwhile, my performing arts training enables me to approach the research session, the report-out, and even the larger client objectives as a task of creating the right “story,” “character” or “experience,” to move an audience in the desired way.

My approach also has core principle: strategic spontaneity. I strive to go in with a plan and key questions, but stay agile and curious so we can pursue promising new questions – and answers – when they arise. 

The best insight I ever uncovered:

The next insight always feels like the best insight. But a past one that stands out was from a home fragrance innovation project. Through ethnographies, I learned that most people have a “host ritual”: a small action they do right before company arrives to signal to themselves that their home is ready for guests.

What I’ve learned about consumers:

Consumers are human even during research; regardless of their background or the category, they want research to be fun or interesting, and to know that their participation mattered.

What a client can expect from me:

  • Insight-hunting that listens to the consumer perspective, but doesn’t forget the client’s perspective
  • Calm, reasoned, honest analysis, even when things get difficult
  • Partnership to close any knowledge gaps and translate insights from complex ideas into targeted actions
  • The occasional bad pun

When I’m not doing research, I’m…

Dancing with my husband or friends, a.k.a. stealth-exercising
Writing poems and plays
Traveling and people-watching, so I have something to write about