Thursday, September 21, 2023

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Kayte Hamilton, Founder, 2023 Future List Spotlight

Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Kayte Hamilton. The GreenBook Future List recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, passion, and excellence in the next generation of consumer insights and marketing professionals within the first 10 years of their careers.

Introducing Kayte Hamilton of The Social Question

Kayte is a visionary, go-getter in the industry. She volunteers countless hours to the QRCA and frequently shares video in her social media feed of the industry events she attends and the people she meets. She’s a connector, a mover and a shaker, and epitomizes so much of what the judges look for in a Future List Honoree.

Kayte found a lot of confidence in the women (and men) of QRCA who have had successful, small business qualitative shops. And, she has always been inspired by the heroines she would read about in fiction novels, strong female characters reaffirming things that are important to her.

She founded the Social Question as an innovative way of recruiting and involving people who researchers and brands rarely see in their studies: social media influencers.  She also credits the Influencers that she recruits and networks with every day as contributing to her confidence.

All these inspirations — her QRCA colleagues, her literary role models, and the Influencers she respects — were key players in the creation of own her own business. By creating new technology, and in offering something that the MR community has never seen before, she has set herself apart.

Outside of insights, what are your passions and interests?

COVID brought back my love for reading, and I usually have my nose buried in my eReader after hours and when I travel. Romantic Fantasy, Chic Lit, or a good old mystery novel are my go-tos. While I try to sprinkle in some non-fiction … I’m a sucker for anything by Jennifer Armentrout or Sarah J. Mass these days. When I’m not coming down from a book hangover I am usually organizing and collecting for my next donation drop off. I try to keep my workspace and home clutter free to mimic clear thinking. Keyword on try. Living in downtown Chicago in a small condo can make this challenging. As much as I’d love to say I enjoy the outdoors, the brutal winters here mean I spend half the year snuggled inside and catching up on binge-worthy shows like You, Billions, Yellowstone, The Last of Us, Emily in Paris – normal millennial obsession shows.

When did you know you wanted to enter a career in insights, and what inspired you?

During undergrad I hated, strongly, my market research courses, and Facebook memories likes to remind me of my very poor social media etiquette with old status updates every Spring. It wasn’t until my graduate studies, at an advertising school (VCU Brandcenter), that I gained hands on exposure to qualitative and quantitative methods. There were two projects: one where we did in-home ethnographies with moms and another where I did interviews and focus groups with women about their workout routines. I was so hooked on asking questions I offered to do other groups work for them. (I am not kidding!)

Transparently, I didn’t even know that kind of interviewing was an industry in and of itself until one of my instructors mentioned it. By the end of my two-year program that I realized I no longer wanted ad agency life and instead really wanted a role where I could talk to people directly. The annoying thing was the school had very few research contacts back then. But serendipity is a wonderful thing — I ended up scoring my first job in the industry from a lone research company that had come to our recruit fair the year I was graduating. The rest fell into place from there.

What do you think the key characteristics or qualities of a leader are? How does this play into MRX?

The two biggest behaviors I value in leaders are listening and problem solving. I want to ensure my peers feel heard which may sound ironic since I have a hearing disability. Early on in my career I had some strong examples presented to me about my own differences in hearing vs. listening. There are times I still struggle with this today. Listening to understand is really challenging for our society versus listening to respond, which is easier. By understanding the feedback, concerns, issues, etc., being presented, we can have more efficient conversations and discussions. Problem solving is also something I admire because sometimes we need the leader on the project or team to be help us untangle ourselves. Someone who can see through the various obstacles or challenges and cut a successful path forward built on compromise or mutual benefits.

What trends do you see making headway on the horizon of insights? What trends do you think will falter in years to come?

More hybridization for sure. Qual and Quant are less at odds with each other with the two disciplines recognizing each other’s values more. I also envision more creative ways to connect with potential consumers. We know Gen Z is “difficult to recruit” and weary of the MRX community due to poor experiences or lack of trust. We need to prove our authenticity and meet them more appropriately where they are. (Which in my biased opinion is on social media, hence The Social Question.) We need to be more approachable as an industry while maintaining our objectivity. Our current traditional methods will not be sustainable for the next 10 years, we need to embrace the change sooner than later to ensure our success in the future.

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