Great to get the chance to chat to Nick Saxby who has had a great couple of years by anyone’s standards, not just for a young researcher. Nick is a researcher within Walnut’s neuroscience team who over the last couple years has made a name for himself in the industry as an expert in the field.
Great to catch up Nick. How did you get into the industry, and take us through how you got to this point?
Not in a particularly linear way. I studied within the clinical side of psychology at university and that’s where my interest lay for a long while, however I always enjoyed the creative side of things and had an attraction to advertising and comms. After university I was working for Jimmy’s Iced Coffee and after a period there, I found myself enjoying understanding how psychology can be applied to marketing. Jim (from Jimmy’s) was super helpful and saw this interest, put me in touch with one of the directors, Andy at Walnut, and everything has gone from there. I started knowing next to nothing about market research but have loved moving through the company, learning about neuroscience and how we as researchers can aid and influence brands.
What has been the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
It would have to be some of the work we’ve done around minority group representation in advertising. We ran one of our neuro studies, using EEG and GSR, to understand the emotional reaction towards minority group representation and found some really interesting stuff. It’s helped to fuel some great conversations with clients and those it affects the most, the minority groups in question. I talked over the subject at last year’s MRS annual conference and then had further conversations with Martin Sibley on his live stream about what it can mean for disability groups being represented in advertising. Hopefully we can continue to use the tools at our disposal to better the world with things like this.
What’s one thing you didn’t expect when starting out in market research?
Probably the degree to which we as researchers can shape campaigns and support brands. I think when you get stuck into some exciting projects and have clients that trust your judgement, the advice we give has a powerful voice to shape brands and as a result society. A message to young researchers out there considering or just starting their career in market research is that you will have more influence and responsibility than you would expect, even at a junior level.
What are 3 qualities you think every great young researcher needs or should aim to have?
Ability to take enjoyment from work. For me this has been reading around the subject with the sciences we implement. There are so many longstanding areas of research to get involved with, and newer techniques are also emerging. I found passion in neuroscience, I’d advise young researchers no matter what their niche to find passion in what they’re doing and enjoyable ways to engage with that passion beyond just the day to day.
Confidence to question results, analysis and hypotheses. It can be tricky when you’re junior as your senior colleagues are senior for a reason, but I think it’s always good to show your youth and create a discussion and question the analysis you may be having.
Desire to make a difference. It makes such a difference to my enjoyment from work, and the end product, when you have an attitude that you want your clients to really understand and engage with the learnings you are putting across.
How can junior researchers thrive in lockdown?
Hmmm, tricky one for me as I have definitely found working from home tough and have missed the office. However, one of the things I have enjoyed the most has been actually working on research that is related to the pandemic and using our resources to research interesting and beneficial topics. I have recently conducted a couple of conference talks on the vaccine uptake from a neuro and behavioural science perspective, and things like that really helped me to enjoy working in lockdown as my work life began to reflect in my everyday life.
One thing you’d like to say to the industry as we start to emerge from our lockdown and try to build back better?
We don’t need to do things in the traditional and structured way our industry is used to. We don’t need to behave in the way we’re used to. One of the things I would like to see is market research agencies breaking the mould of being siloed when it comes to our role in campaigns. I feel we too often do a piece of research and then just leave, but I’ve seen when our insights are integrated over the long-term and the relationship is nourished, both sides can reap the rewards. I’d love to see us build back as aids to creative agencies and brands. It requires strong relationships, but there is such a great opportunity to be a voice from our area of expertise.
Do you have anyone who has helped your career so far that you’d like to say thanks or give a shout out to?
It would have to be a couple of the board directors at Walnut who run the neuroscience side of things, Dr. Andy Myers and Dr. Cristina de Balanzo. They have both put a lot of trust in me; from Andy taking a punt on bringing me to the company and teaching me the ropes of neuroscience, to Cristina getting me on stage at the MRS annual conference, helping me through all my subsequent talks and shaping my view towards research and supporting brands today. Thanks for the support!!