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.

Our Philosophy


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.


Latest Blog News

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...

Ethnography for storytelling

In live and digital authentic ethnography, we get to see consumers live their real-world lives as they show and describe their deepest dreams, needs, obstacles, and successes. Upcoming posts will how we link consumer stories to brand stories through observation, teamwork, intuition, personas, and archetypes.​

Running creative “focus” groups in 2017​

What’s the best way to run what used to be called focus groups when this methodology is the beginning to a hybrid, innovative, exploratory, qualitative research effort?  Once upon a time, the original style of focus groups was used for everything…from concept reaction, to behavioral and attitudinal focus, and to get high-level needs information at a broad, diverse level. Groups were sometimes the only methodology; their findings were then quantified.  Then, focus groups fell out of favor 10+ years ago, as online bulletin boards and mobile techniques emerged. There were complaints of bandwagoning and too much subjectivity with the old focus groups.  However, groups are back in fashion again.  We’ve discovered (as have clients) that we really want to—need to—understand the social and collective elements of a product, concept, or category.  The social and collective are just one of multiple perspectives on the persona of the consumer, and the social and collective are only possible through live groups.  Of course, groups aren’t a final word on a study because we want a 360 view of the consumer through more individualized online and personalized in-situ ethnographic methodologies.  But, groups remain the best beginning to a customer journey because they open the inquiry into multiple perspectives that can finetune the online and put it into an observational dimension once we’re at the ethnography stage.  Through the creative group, we get to know the real consumer in person. When running contemporary focus groups in 2017 that start an exploratory effort, let them be as spontaneous as possible. The new name of the game is to eliminate “focus” from the methodology of focus groups.  Run them for a little longer time, like 2.5 hours, and take a break in the middle, to get consumers really relaxed and friendly with you and the others.  Don’t worry too much about bandwagoning and competing opinions.  If it gets too much, you can always take out the disturbing consumer. Use a lot of projective exercises, keep crayons and archetype cards around for new insights, go deep emotionally, and ask a few off-the-wall questions about consumers’ lives, loves, and interests outside of the topic at hand.  Ask about weight loss or dating even if we’re in the middle of a technology project.  Ask if anyone had a dream or a fantasy that they can tell us about…on anything as long as it’s not TMI.  You’ll be surprised how revitalized a group can get when the subject is really relevant.  We can always go back to the real topic once a new wave of subjective vitality has inundated the group.  We like to double moderate our creative groups when it seems right.  If two anthropologists are going to do a phase of later observational ethnographic methodologies, the same two anthropologists or psychologists will run the group together, one sitting across from the one in the moderator’s seat.  Two moderators frame the group.  There are three benefits for double moderation: The consumers get to know that there are several research leadership styles, they get to know the other anthropologist by name and personality who might do their personal ethnography in another week or moderate their portion of the online, and the other anthropologist can take over while the first moderator leaves the room, checks with the client team in the back, or gets materials ready for showing and discussion. Things stay livelier with two.  The moderators can talk with each other and ask questions out loud, like, I wonder why the group went silent when we showed this concept?  Consumers dive back in to answer two of us.  New or deeper questions that one moderator didn’t think of can be asked by the second.  Sometimes, we have a client from the backroom sit in the groups to act as a second moderating force.   In 2017, the way we moderate our groups is to actively seek looseness and environmental subjectivity, creativity, and spontaneity.  We encourage emotions, adding in projective techniques early on. We go on and off topic.  We add in moderators.  We put in a wishing module that extends to consumers’ lives and families independent of the topic.  The topic remains important, sure, but it’s not necessary to run a strictly linear group with a totally democratic style.  No, we don’t want distressing or disturbing dominators—nor wallflowers—but people are people and we want to see them interact in a highly social experiential mode that portrays the collective spirit of the concept or category. In summary:  Wish a little.  Let the group dive into the collective unconscious.  Let creative—rather than focus—groups be the entry point into a hybrid qualitative effort that quickly moves into online and ethnographic dimensions to gain a 360 perspective for our consumers.​

Researching a significant but flat or declining SKU 

In some current qualitative work we are researching now, there are exciting challenges related to brands that once led the market but are now flat, losing SKUs, diminishing in shelf position, as well as declining emotionally when consumers discuss their feelings about them. This marketing problem should be deconstructed—thought through with care—at the research considerations and design stages of a proposal for qualitative research. Sometimes it’s powerful to just research the original loyalists if we have evidence that this consumer segment who loves your core brand is still on target and on trend. Other times it’s helpful to feature the core loyalty segment but also include new segments that represent behavioral and emotional shifts away from the original loyalty. The first segment (loyalty consumers only) could be a lower budget, easier effort, while the second effort (new segments that are shifting but on trend) brings out the need for multiple psychographics and demographics, multiple regions, multiple methodologies, more days of research, and potentially more expenditures. Still, it might be worth it for the overall product’s brand health to move beyond loyalists, especially if transformation is going on in the industry and category. Let’s take the example of trying to understand the deep persona of consumers who are your base, i.e., your most loyal and frequent users of a particular product, sub-brand, or category that once was high performing, leading the competitors, and supplying most of your company’s viability, income, and generative power. And now let’s say that this product’s market has been in decline for a few years as new strategies and solutions have been unable to stop the drain. Who or what are the best segment(s) to research especially on a limited research budget? Of course, it’s brilliant to research the loyalist’s core essence and deep persona who continues to purchase your big product/sub-brand with regularity, over time, within the past month, and who also upon screening feels a tangible emotional-psychological loyalty. We will always learn good things about loyalty through depth interviewing in creative groups and individual interviews followed by ethnography, whether live or digital. In fact, as researchers, we will emerge with a profound portrait of your core loyalist. But, suppose after we’ve conducted these productive methodologies and analysis, that the persona of this loyal brand user is counter to newer trends? Suppose we discover that she or he as a persona has old-fashioned behavioral patterns, doesn’t like change, is buying the brand only on sale, has shifted from emotional loyalty to pure habit, is stocking up on deal to be sure it’s always inside the home, shows traits averse to newer trends, is a luddite, seems out of sync with contemporary ways of doing things, is eating and drinking unhealthier products without awareness that makes them a “dinosaur,” or is radically or subtly opposed to how and where other notable segments in the market are changing and going. Then, it’s even more helpful to add in research that studies the emotional and behavioral perspectives of consumers who represent where the market is heading but still have fondness or some usage for your original brand. These newer segments we can contrast with core loyalists. This newer segment could be participants who may be feeling slight reluctance to purchase your core product, are lightening their personal usage even if still purchasing it for visitors and family, are being tempted by other solutions and ideas, seem wishful, and are beginning to honor different requests from family members. Perhaps these newer users are noticing how, around them in their community, their friends are using new brands and they emotionally want to fit in. Maybe core loyalists are dependents, empaths, people pleasers, place others’ desires ahead of their own, but in their heart space, would really enjoy the collegiality of shared experiences with friends using newer products. What if they’re beginning to wonder whether loyalty to their original brand is lacking something important? If any of these research suspicions resonate for you as the lead researcher, insight manager, or among team members of your marketing initiative, perhaps an exploratory, bigger, but even higher-efficiency design would be to include multiple segments in the study. Go beyond core loyalists. Of course, the loyalist of the brand/product will always be a desired baseline, but also consider the user who used to be a once-heavy user who still buys the product but is now experimenting with new items in the marketplace. In summary, an inexpensive, fast, and easier qualitative study researching just your core base of loyalists may get profound results that satisfy for the moment but may still be too limiting. Consider adding in a second or third component of lighter or lapsing segments who still purchase your core product but are changing their behaviors and feelings. Stepping up the segments as we continue to focus on the core loyalist could make your research more resonating, creative, and viable for successful new product generation and future strategies. We ultimately want to hold onto, expand, and meet the needs of the core loyalists as we go sailing and fishing on the bright blue ocean.​

Triangulating and mixed methods

A single research process may lead to partiality, bias, or one-sidedness even when compellingly executed with flawless recruiting, moderation, and analysis. This is the context of a new workshop to be held after Semiofest 2017 in Toronto, Canada, in July 2017. It’s called Triangulating Semiotics with Mixed Methods.


Selected Methodologies