Student Voices Series about their HCD Internship

A Reflection on my Market Research Internship

My name is Alexandra Michiels and I am an economics and finance student at McGill University. During my time as an intern at HCD Research, I learned about market research – a rapidly expanding discipline becoming more and more central to the businesses of tomorrow, given the advent of a data-driven future – a topic on which I had no ground knowledge prior to this internship. In relation, I discovered that neuroscience, mainly its application within market research, plays a central role in understanding why and how consumers make their decisions.

I am very grateful to have been able to participate in this internship that has impacted me in many positive ways. Indeed, I learned important skills such as problem solving, communication, time management and searching, as well as filtering for credible information.

Biometric tools being used to understand Consumer Behavior
HCD Research is a leading marketing research firm that provides clients with innovative solutions for all phases of the marketing continuum from message development and testing to ad concept testing, website optimization and in-market performance monitoring.

I am glad this internship has given me such an interdisciplinary set of skills, which helped me to considerably develop my knowledge. To gain deeper insight into consumers’ decision-making process and daily habit loops, we must consider both their explicit and implicit attitudes. The use of neuroscientific methods, specifically implicit, helps improve our understanding in cognitive, neural, and emotional mechanisms are related to marketing-relevant behavior. Through my first research project, I learned more on the use of implicit research, which seeks to measure underlying responses that people are not often conscious of, and hence, would not be able to report on when being explicitly asked to. This research project specifically focused on the use of implicit methodology in human resources (HR) research, a relatively unknown topic to the market research industry. My presentation reviewed different approaches used by market research companies in HR research, and whether neuroscience is included in their data collection process. Throughout my research experience, I faced numerous new challenges such as finding pertinent information regarding the use of neuroscience in HR research, which ultimately resulted in my growth individually as a business student and as a part of the team.

My second research project dealt with the concept of brand harmony. When a company launches a new product, consumers have certain expectations based on the brand’s identity, product packaging, product marketing, and more. It is important for the brand to ensure that these expectations are met, combining product and brand perceptions, to produce brand harmony. During my research process on brand harmony, I faced yet another set of new challenges. One of these challenges was that brand harmony is not a new phenomenon, however, other market research companies will refer to it, using equivalent, but diverse language. I, therefore, learned to conduct my research using only a few key words, pinpointing relevant information while being aware of the limitations of online research, to then reconstruct a clear image of what can be defined as brand harmony. Acknowledging limitations is a key aspect of rigorous research, something which was repeatedly emphasized throughout this internship. Overall, this work enhanced my critical thinking and research abilities, as well as fine-tuned my presentation skills.

Student working on the computer with their planner

My experience as a summer intern is twofold. On the one hand, it allowed me to build a solid knowledge base in different fields of market research, as well as neuroscience and its purpose in consumer-based research. On the other, it enabled me to improve my communication and organization and establish a new set of skills such as being able to ‘read between the lines’ and recognize hidden opportunities, which will continually be useful throughout my career in business.