Let Us Introduce You
Meet Brian, AKA The Fisherman. With his endless passion and good humor, Brian will be your greatest puzzle-solving partner, whether in the conference room or at the lake.
By Kelly Pellico
One of the most important elements of any partnership is enjoying who you’re partnered with. In that spirit, I’d like to introduce you to a few of my amazingly bright and talented colleagues.
First up? Please meet Brian Thompson, who leads our tech and entertainment verticals.
Brian is incredibly smart but it’s his passion and good humor that sets him apart as an excellent partner. His deeply genuine passion for research is infectious and, without fail, he’s able to place things in perspective, often with a creative analogy or one-liner that makes you say ‘aha.’
Read on to learn what drives Brian’s passion for research, and why fishing is his greatest passion when off-the-clock.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
Well, I’m a California boy. I’m in Wisconsin now because my wife is attending grad school, but I was born and raised in San Diego, went to UC Irvine in Orange County, and have lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was at UCI where I got the research bug. I was fascinated by this idea that we could capture and quantify what the masses are thinking and use that for good. That idea was really powerful. My claim to fame was that I got the top grade in my research methods class, which I was proud of. And it got me thinking about research as a career. I started at Lieberman, worked in San Francisco at a company called Radius, and have now been with Vital Findings for, gosh, almost 12 years.
That’s a perfect segue into the next question. You’ve been with Vital Findings since (almost) the beginning. What do you enjoy most about working for the company?
I think what makes it a great fit for me is that I really love research. I love the power of research. I love what it can do. It’s this magical thing. And at other companies I worked at, there was no magic. It felt more like a factory with you as part of a process. You thought about your part, but you didn’t really think about it end to end. At Vital Findings, the culture that Jason (the founder) created is one where you really think about the research; you care about both how you present it and the foundation on which it’s based.
And of course, over time with this group of researchers, you just get to know them so well. It’s cliché but when you work with someone for more than a decade they feel more like family. We have a history together, which I really honor and appreciate.
What do you think clients enjoy most about working with us?
What I hear from my clients is that it’s our personalized service and the fact that the outputs are tailored to their specific needs. What’s different about what we do is that we really listen, and we adjust our design and deliverables so they’re getting something custom to them. It’s a strong partnership and I don’t think they always get that experience elsewhere. I like to think we’re fun too. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to joke and to have a good laugh with our clients.
You lead Vital Findings’ Tech & Entertainment portfolio. What do you love about these two spaces?
What I get to research is so tangible and real. I love that they pretty much affect everyone. It’s stuff that almost everybody deals with on a day-to-day basis. Streaming services, the computers they use, the search engines, the AI…these touch everyone.There’s also constant change which satisfies my intellectual curiosity. I love digging into these topics, and the team does too.
If you had to choose, which project are you most proud of?
There are a few of them, but one is a study we did for a tech company called The Future of Human Augmentation. We talked with experts in implantable devices (under the skin and on top of the skin) to understand what they were doing, what they saw coming up next, and how it could affect people in the future. It was so fascinating because we came up with ideas of how this market would unfold and what it meant for our client. Another is a tracker we run for Microsoft with Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs). It’s a great partnership and the work has grown and evolved to really become an integral part of their security organization’s growth. In fact, our collaboration with Microsoft was recently announced as a finalist for the Research Excellence Awards powered by Quirk’s.
You’re known for your creative, in-the-moment use of language, whether it’s a relatable metaphor, a catchy one-liner, or even a dad joke. How has this talent benefited your work?
The very first person to hire me into research, this was at Lieberman, was Carrie Stojack. She always had insightful one-liners that could grab people’s attention and totally illuminate a topic. I feel like I learned it from her. But I really do love relating things we find in research to things that everyone can relate to in the real world. It helps solidify an idea. It can provide a shortcut to helping clients understand what our research is saying. So, it’s helped in that way. It’s also memorable. People will repeat what you said, and it makes its way into presentations and then to the lexicon so it’s rewarding as well.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love my two boys, Finn and Beau. My favorite part of the day is in the morning when I’m having my coffee and they’re just playing around downstairs, playing with each other, and asking questions. But if we’re talking about hobbies, I love fishing. I don’t think that’s a secret to anybody. I don’t keep the fish; people ask me that a lot. But as the late great Mitch Hedberg used to say, I just make them late for wherever they’re going.
Why do you love fishing?
When I took a week off recently, all I did was fish. And I thought about this question, “why do I love fishing?” It inspires a sense of wonder. You don’t know what’s down there, but you’re going to find out, right? It’s challenging because you have to figure out what they’re biting on. And if they’re not biting your lure, is it the size? Is it the color? Is it the speed? It’s a puzzle you have to figure out. And it’s distraction-free. When I’m fishing, I’m focusing on one thing and solving one problem, and that’s all you can do. You’re standing in the river just trying to figure shit out. That’s what I love.