“The Strategy track gave me a Master’s in people watching”

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I chose brand strategy because I love studying politics and religion. I love understanding how beliefs help people sleep at night.

When I arrived at Brandcenter, I discovered that to truly understand people, I had to dig a lot deeper than institutions and doctrines. I had to get my hands dirty, and dissect people’s behavior in their day-to-day lives. Not just in the pew or in the voting booth (though those can be helpful).

This manifested in an obsession with cool qualitative research. Never heard “cool” and “research” in the same sentence? Now you have. Because I’m not talking about focus groups with 2-way mirrors and a list of canned questions asked by a moderator. I’m talking about semi- stalking people and asking borderline inappropriate questions to discover the juiciest untold truths.

Here are a few of the bizarre shapes my “research” has taken as a strategist at Brandcenter:

  • Hosted a Funfetti cake and PBR party to understand the meaning of baked goods for millennials
  • Asked strangers on Facebook (with their permission) about their experiences with teen sexting
  • Followed people around the grocery store to understand what items they were willing to “go generic” on
  • Talked to dads about how they supported their partners while trying to conceive (aside from the obvious way)

But anyone can people watch. The truly valuable part of qualitative research is being able to identify the most useful learnings. And Brandcenter taught me just this. Here, I have learned to ask the interesting questions, notice the key learnings, and turn them into actionable insights to solve problems with my teams.

– Mary Gray Johnson, strategy track, class of 2019