FEATURE7 July 2023

Dr Nicki Morley – research hero

Features People Research Heroes 2023

The Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Dr Nicki Morley has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2023.


Dr Nicki Morley, Head of Behavioural Science & Innovation Expertise, kantar

With a passion for sustainability, Dr Nicki Morley is also one of Kantar’s Sustainable Transformation Practice Innovation experts. Nicki has a PhD in Psychology and spent 13 years client side in Unilever before moving to Kantar.

Nicki was nominated because "there is nobody who is doing more progressive, provocative, actionable work, at the intersection of innovation, sustainability, and behavioural science...She also invests time in mentoring people within the business to better enable them to give sustainable innovation advice, and writes passionately to help brands to innovate more sustainably."

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?

I’ve made some big leaps in my research career, moving from academia to industry, from R&D at Unilever to marketing, and most recently from client to agency side. The biggest challenge has always been the transition to a new context, and it has often been a steep learning curve. What this challenge has taught me though is that the strong principles of good research, remaining curious and open to new thinking but also not being frightened to challenge the status quo with fresh ideas has enabled me to survive these various transitions and to have ultimately enjoyed and learnt from each of them.

What will be the next biggest trend or development in the research industry and why? 

Now many might say continued advances in AI but what I have learnt in my varied career is that its often the blending of areas of expertise alongside technology that bring about the most transformative and actionable new thinking. Whether it’s a trend or something we should proactively push for, my feeling is that the next big development should come from blending areas such as behavioural science and UX or CX and Innovation alongside new and agile technologies that will unlock the greatest opportunities in new thinking. This will be especially important when tackling big challenges such as sustainability. As AI continues to percolate our industry this will necessitate our move toward this more practical blending of approaches to get to more actionable insight that we must land in the business using our human expertise that no machine can ultimately emulate.

 Who inspires you as a researcher?

I am inspired by anyone who can take new thinking and translate it into something tangible and meaningful for others. Take for example, Kahneman, who took the difficult field of behavioural science and made it accessible to researchers. Think about my colleagues at Kantar Brand Z who manage to translate the world’s largest brand equity study into amazing insights for clients.  inally, colleagues I work with such as Amy Cashman, Dom Boyd and Jonathan Hall who inspire me to do my best work by enabling me to remain curious and experiment with new thinking safe in the knowledge I will translate it into something tangible for clients and the business. 

View the full list of Research Heroes 2023