Ava Lindberg

Cultural anthropologist, depth psychologist, and president of SunResearch


Ava Lindberg is president and founder of SunResearch, making waves and bringing light to the research and marketing world for over 20 years. Ava heightens research innovation and understanding with creative groups, psychological depth interviews, and live and digital ethnography taken from cultural anthropology, depth psychology, penetrating projective techniques, role plays, expanded ideation, and training in observation and archetypes…helping marketing teams discern, prioritize, and activate the right innovations, concept creation, product development, and compelling branding. Ava’s experience spans some of the world’s top brands at ConAgra Foods, Hilton Worldwide, Unilever, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, and International Data Corporation. Her research collaboration with marketing has received two David Ogilvy Awards.

Welcome to SunResearch

Bringing You Breakthrough Insight for Marketing and Messaging. The Power of Hybrid Innovative Qualitative Research.

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Each research project is handled by the perfect team. When moderated by a single researcher, the study is backed by cutting-edge supervisors, facility, technology, and documentary partners. Customer journeys and multicultural projects can blend cultural anthropologists, psychologists, online, and multilingual moderators fused by experience and relationship that enhance team affinity and achieve superlative results.


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Selected Clients 


"The video clips developed from the ethnography are fantastic and very helpful in the storytelling. We all loved these, and it brings your work to life!"



-CPG marketing client




"The archetypal workshop was a pivotal step for us to more tightly define our true brand persona and afford us greater consistency in our strategic communication approach."


-CPG insights client




"The path-to-purchase presentation you created, we shared with our stakeholder council last week. It was very well received!"


-Insights client in CPG industry




"You’re a moderator who’s great at getting at the emotions underneath consumer perceptions in the financial category."


-Research agency client




"I was very satisfied with your work and insights, and the collaboration was fantastic, even across continents."


-Consumer insights client




"We had 'goose bumps' when we heard the archetypal mission statement based upon our session." 


-Director, CPG client




"Your shifts and ability to follow new leads gained new results for us and made a big difference."


-International marketing collaborator




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Ava Lindberg

Cultural anthropologist, depth psychologist, and president of SunResearch


Ava Lindberg is president and founder of SunResearch, making waves and bringing light to the research and marketing world for over 22 years. Ava heightens research innovation and understanding with creative groups, psychological depth interviews, and live and digital ethnography taken from cultural anthropology...

Meaning making and messaging:Two significant questions in concept/ad/story research​ 

Suppose the marketer or qualitative researcher were allowed to ask only two questions about a concept, ad, story, or communications piece?  They would be these: 1. What gut reaction to—how do you feel about—this concept, ad, story, or communications piece? Be sure emotions are accessed, with no intellectual analysis  2. What is this concept/ad/story saying, suggesting, or communicating about the product or brand? In other words, based only on this concept/ad/story or communication: a. What are the brand or product’s physical/emotional characteristics and attributes? i. Keep prompting—what else?—as you explore quickly.b. You can use a fill-in-the-blank exercise to elicit authentic response.  “This concept/ad/story is telling me that the brand/product is ___________, ____________, and _____________.  Explore the meaning of the language/words. If you’re showing multiple concepts/ads/stories, be sure that you vary the order of sequence to eliminate positioning bias.  Also, tell consumers in advance not to compare and that you’re not interested whether they like this one better than that one.  Comparing can be done only at the very end of the interview, group, or online platform just as a nice wrap-up and emotional closure.  Comparative appeal may or may not be significant to which concept/ad/story is chosen. The first question tries to solicit a vital, active component of emotionality, whether positive or negative. If there’s an emotional “hit,” the ad/concept/story is in the running.  It mostly matters that it creates impact and intrusiveness; it doesn’t matter if the consumer likes or dislikes it. The second question is significant.  If the concept, ad, or piece provides characteristics, attributes, and elements of the brand or product that are accurate, link to the brand strategy, make sense, are fast to grasp, and seem relevant to the consumer, this is what we’re seeking.   Other questions that marketers want to know are helpful and supportive, but secondary. These include: What do you like about the concept/ad/story?  What do you dislike? Why? To whom is it communicating? How likely would you be to purchase or to watch it?  What language stands out? What’s confusing?  What if anything would you think or do as a result of seeing it?  Anything you’d want to improve? Summary:  If there’s an emotional hit and if the ad/concept/story is communicating accurately and the way you want about the brand or product, you’re on the right track.  Be sure a number of consumers including users and non-users, heavy and light frequencies, gender, age, income, education, psychographic segment, ethnicity are included in the story so you can categorize the findings by segment.   ​

Blockchain and Qualitative/Market Research​

News is proliferating about blockchain and its implications for market research.  It might be a way to address, even solve, market research issues like tracing and tracking of the multiple sources of data, identifying all the steps in data retrieval, ensuring against bad data, removing bots as respondents, and helping compliance with new regulations.  We might regain our trust in the data underneath the insights, increase transparency, allow the marketer to go direct to consumers by eliminating the research middle ground, and give consumers greater control over data, improving quality of respondents. Some say there is a strong potential to remedy, eliminate, and solve the issues of fragmentation of escalating research techniques. From the GreenBook webinar on August 23, 2018, there is strong emphasis on trust related to blockchain.  M. Andreessen is quoted: “Blockchain is the ‘trust protocol’…blockchain enables trusted transactions directly between two or more parties, authenticated by mass collaboration and powered by collective self-interests, rather than by large corporations motivated by profit.” Many inflations and paradigms in research are operating in contemporary marketing—there is an obsession for new research techniques yet increased skepticism that the data is good… desire for more control over data yet slippery commitment issues from team members.  Client companies get excited about a highly advertised methodology at the outset and then are unable to follow though in interest because of its complexities and distractions. The mind of the marketer is different from the mind of a researcher; it’s easier to take shortcuts in DIY research when you don’t really resonate to the innate research process and only want results, fast.   Researchers have the inherent need to debrief the ambiguities of research findings, reduce the data thoughtfully after we have first expanded it, re-conceptualize the purpose of a study at the midpoint, spot inaccuracies and weird, spooky, or uncanny developments that spell out a major error, winnow out flash-in-the-pan superficialities from highly tested methodologies that have earned our respect, get trained and gain experience in a method, and increase transparencies without causing the consumer to build up defenses that inculcate new emotional defense systems. In a recent seminar on blockchain and market research, certain benefits for each party in the interrelationship are touted and explored.  For instance: Suggested benefits for the consumer with blockchain:  Consumers can stay involved with the research and data results. This makes the process seem true, relevant, and engaged. But, research gathering is inherently time consuming, consumers are busy, and analysis goes through a shatteringly lengthy, boring stage or two before it gets to interpretation; the best research punctures our egos and tells insights about ourselves we don’t want to know. Good research does not always make our motivations, narratives, and opinions look good to others.  Optimum research uncovers shadow needs and wounds as well as light-filled wishes and positive discoveries. So, will consumers have the time, interest, strength of character, and emotional honesty to stay involved with the data and research process? Will they permit their darker side to become known? Suggested benefit for the researcher with blockchain:  Blockchain may allow us more trust in the data and the ability to follow the data at every point.  It’s said that instead of being nervous about using data that might be corrupt and substandard, we researchers can be bolder. We will know that those who contribute to the data have specific checks, permissions, and have gone through validating identity structures. This will help us relax more and do our work in a more streamlined, trusting fashion. Since the industry is increasingly fragmented and there is proliferation, propagation, and intensification of research techniques, many of which are technology-driven as opposed to tested by social scientists, maybe blockchain will automatically fix this overwhelming aggrandizement. It’s as if a huge picnic table of indiscriminate food brought by unknown providers is laid out on a big lawn and everyone who’s hungry can go get whatever he wants on the basis of taste buds, quality, and perceived value, without having to compromise trust.  But, wait a minute, suppose the market research questions are still in the conceptualization stage? Suppose we don’t yet know the competitive framework? Suppose we don’t know what category we’re playing in? Suppose we can’t agree on indubitable questions? Suppose we need a pretest stage or two to figure out what we’re doing? Suppose we are noticing discrepancies between multiple methodologies and their disparate findings? Suppose the research disagrees with the original opinions of top management? It is a maxim that the more thorough, rich, and multifaceted the data, the less direct, obvious, and clear are the resulting data and the greater is the need for careful analysis, skillful reduction.  It is frequently the experienced, research team who struggles, smiles, advances, despairs, exalts, goes backward, goes ahead again, and generally pulls out their own hair as they massage the data, allow for ambiguities, reversals, and paradoxes, and then come up with breakthrough results.  A quant questionnaire with thousands of undifferentiated respondents that has only three yes-no-maybe questions may be easier to analyze than a client-involved, researcher-led deep-dive qualitative, multiphased, mixed methods, longitudinal methodology about emotional motivations and behaviors of segmentation with a smaller number of algorithmic consumers over a three month period with multiple researchers in several fields, and key variations like ages, segments, and usage categories.  But which findings will be more valuable to the marketers? It depends of course, but most likely the longitudinal process. Blockchain is an open decentralized data of transactions involving value.  But value in a single consumer’s mind can change from moment to moment depending upon context, mood, income, other actors, wants, and perceived needs.  It is this shifting of value that qualitative researchers are trained to notice, become aware of, analyze, and intuit as motivational factors. Suggested benefit for the marketer with blockchain:  Theoretically with blockchain, companies, brands, and marketers may be able to reach their consumers directly.  The middleman researcher can be fired; done; that was easy. But without the researcher who is trained and innately positioned to have deep unconditional regard and empathy for the human sides of consumers, the same knowledge, depth, objectivity, subjectivity, transcendence of data, and intense level of ethics may not be guaranteed.  If the marketer can go straight to the consumer and the consumer can answer the marketer’s questions directly, will the consumer only state what he or she feels it’s appropriate to answer? Will they get bored and stop answering if the inquiry is long or irrelevant? Will they balk and give false data because being asked questions by those who serve to benefit by those answers becomes obvious quickly? Very few like to be grilled by someone or something who is obviously not objective, might abuse trust, and are transparently…opportunistic.  Even for trained researchers, it can be hard to ask totally open-ended questions if one has a vested interest in the answer. The consumer can rapidly discern when the questioner (the marketer within blockchain) is asking leading questions without the objective middleman (the researcher eliminated by blockchain). Of course, as a qualitative researcher who is a trained cultural anthropologist and depth psychologist who leads large-scale market research efforts and knows what is entailed under the surface, I and others like me don’t want to be eliminated by blockchain. We don’t even like to be called middlemen. So, I guess this post can be considered suspect or a crusade for the cause of maintaining researchers within the consumer-client research paradigm.   We may be in a totally new research ecosystem, but this ecosystem is still not a fait accompli.  No one’s fate is being sealed, yet, by blockchain. Blockchain still needs to establish identity structures and do validating research about the authentic nature of data trust so that we can better understand the benefits.  When we’re talking about the need for good data, let’s see when there’s significance to having a trained observer research team spearheaded by the qualitative researcher or anthropologist with the ability to dispassionately look at what consumers actually do, don’t do, feel, don’t feel, say, and don’t say. And, let’s figure out together where are the points of definition, devaluation, aspiration, reality, confusion, polarization, ambiguity, and potential transformation.   In some ways, the advent of blockchain makes qualitative research seem more radically necessary than ever before. What are the true advantages of no intermediaries, let’s learn who the actors are, see if trust in your specific data is increased or decreased, and begin to differentiate by the specific marketing issue and nature of the explicit inquiry whether blockchain can transform a particular inquiry for the marketer, the brand, the product, or the consumer need…for the better.   ​

Recommit to your brand loyalists​

The core loyalists and frequent users of a brand, product, or service might be ignored in favor of reaching out to new markets. Blue sky strategies seem more exciting than resonating and putting effort against loyalists who, one might assume, will stick with the brand no matter what. Yet, loyalists form the essence of your brand. Listen to their stories and repeat their narratives. Celebrate, research, acknowledge, reward, and delight them. Research new narratives about what loyalists are doing in their lives and with your brand. Fall in love with their attributes, qualities, needs, wants, and characteristics -- especially if these are different from your new markets -- and let them know that you love them for their steadfast adherence and loyalty to the brand.​

​Checklist of 20 principles for the customer journey

When creating proposals and planning for big, multistaged, multiphased, mixed method style, authentic, and longitudinal market research customer journeys that involve in-context ethnographic observations that tap into in-the-moment decision making, I have a checklist to use as you work with fields, teams, and your process. Note on the image accompanying this post: The usual, developed customer journey map after the stages of market research will look quite different than the legendary Hero’s Journey diagram shown here. But, it’s important to acknowledge that, behind every customer journey and the research journey of the observing team, there is a deeper inner and outer journey that resembles the psychological monomyth in key ways.


Selected Methodologies