Integrating AI into Marketing Research: The Intersection of Humans and AI

March 31, 2024

Q2 Insights has been an early adopter of AI to augment our marketing research consultancy processes. Our use of multivariate statistical analysis and predictive analytics for quantitative data analysis is complemented by AI, which enhances our ability to efficiently analyze both qualitative and quantitative data to uncover key findings and insights in a short period of time. Like multivariate statistical analysis and predictive analytics tools, AI is a tool. AI is not a replacement for humans, who have real world experience, knowledge, and excellent communication skills. Additionally, it will likely be decades before AI can emulate human brain processes. Combining AI and humans in the analysis of marketing research data enhances the strengths of both. Recognizing that AI is rapidly approaching the ability to assist with predictive analytics further strengthens this integrated approach.

Why is AI an Effective Tool for Marketing Researchers?

The key strength of AI is that it has the potential to enrich and streamline some of the interpretation of marketing research data. The strengths of AI include:

Speed and Cost Effectiveness

AI can process certain types of data faster than humans to identify findings and insights that help businesses make more timely and informed decisions. It also quickly and accurately analyzes large volumes of data that would take humans considerably more time to process. Use of AI is also very cost effective as it can reduce the need for hiring and training human researchers, especially for repetitive and time-consuming tasks. In the case of qualitative data, AI-powered natural language processing (NLP) aids in interpreting transcripts from Focus Groups and Depth Interviews, social media sentiment, and open-ended responses to survey questions. These tasks are very time consuming for humans.

Objectivity and Pattern Recognition

Sometimes interpretation of marketing research data by human researchers is influenced by subjective biases or emotions. AI aids in the objective interpretation of data. Pattern recognition within complex and large-scale datasets can lead to findings and insights that may not be immediately apparent to human researchers.

Technological Advancements

As AI can be trained and customized there will be continuing advancements in machine learning, deep learning, and predictive analytics. As AI continues to improve its interpretation of data, it may surpass human capabilities in some areas.

Why Human Marketing Researchers are Unlikely to be Replaced by AI

To fully replace human researchers, AI will need to emulate human brain processes more closely. Neuroscientists and cognitive scientists know a lot about brains, but given the vast complexity of the brain, this knowledge barely scratches the surface of understanding. For this reason, it will be virtually impossible for AI to rival the human advantages offered by well-trained marketing researchers.

As a neuroscientist long working on some of the many mind-brain challenges, I emphasize that despite science’s extensive efforts over the past several centuries, our understanding of brains barely scratches the formidable surface obscuring its preeminent complexity. The intricate web of neural connections, subtle interplay of chemicals, and enigmatic nature of consciousness continue to challenge us at every turn. The brain remains a fascinating frontier of scientific exploration, but we still have so much to learn. – Paul L. Nunez, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Tulane University, and author of five books on brain science.

What are the human competencies we have as marketing researchers that are not offered by AI?

Real World Experience and Knowledge

  • The ability to link disparate ideas from research data with the human’s professional and general life experience to identify basic, evolutionary, and groundbreaking insights is a clear advantage human researchers have over AI.
  • Human intuition related to many factors such as life experience, human behavior, cultural nuances, and market trends all play into the interpretation of marketing research data.
  • While one of the advantages of AI is that it is insulated from much subjectivity and bias, this is also an advantage for human researchers. Human data interpretation is influenced by the life and business experiences of the researcher as well as the contextual understanding of the research project. All of this serves to add context to findings and insights. Unlike AI, humans can recognize and explain these biases.
  • While AI can be taught marketing and marketing research expertise through updates and retraining, human researchers are involved in the dynamic and evolving nature of these disciplines on a daily basis. Technologies, trends, and consumer behaviors change very rapidly.

Being Human

  • The ability of human researchers to understand human emotions provides nuanced understanding of opinions and behaviors and leads to superior interpretation of data.
  • The capacity to read body language and voice intonation. During the in-person qualitative (and sometimes quantitative) data collection phase of research, many seasoned marketing researchers read body language, voice intonation and other subtle and not so subtle cues when deciphering the meaning of what research respondents are sharing.
  • Human creativity may be an impenetrable barrier to AI for many years. Harking back to our lack of understanding of how brains create and processes information, it is unlikely human creativity will be replicated anytime soon. When expert marketing researchers turn research data into findings, key findings, insights, and groundbreaking insights, they are leveraging creativity that computers currently lack.


  • Although there is some experimental work, businesses, and even movies and television (e.g., Her, Westworld) focusing on AI companions, human researchers establish trust, credibility, and rapport with research respondents, colleagues, and clients through their interpersonal skills, empathy, and relationship-building abilities. It will be difficult for AI to replicate these human communication skills that are critical to the interpretation of research data.
  • Human marketing researchers are also excellent communicators and storytellers. While AI is likely to be able to learn many of these skills with time, it is likely that humans will remain superior in this realm for a long time.

Until neuroscientists and cognitive scientists more fully understand the human brain, it is entirely unlikely that humans will be replaced by AI in marketing research. Some marketing research functions may be replaced by AI, but this will be to the betterment of the discipline due to use of AI as a tool, and not to the elimination of the human-powered discipline. The intersection of human researchers and AI in marketing research is complementary. Any organization that fails to recognize that AI is a powerful tool, not a replacement for human marketing researchers, is likely to be left behind in a world that relies on data-driven decision making.

Kirsty Nunez is the President and Chief Research Strategist at Q2 Insights, Inc., a research and innovation consulting firm with offices in San Diego. Q2 Insights specializes in many areas of research and predictive analytics, and designs and implements customized Brand Health Monitors in consultation with many clients.

To reach Kirsty, call (760) 230-2950 ext. 1 or