John Nicholson



Washington, DC

John Nicholson

I’ve been a big-data digital marketer for almost 20 years. For half those years, I saw what worked and what didn’t, but never understood why. Then I discovered UX research, and fell in love with observing and talking to customers 1-on-1. Suddenly my ideas and results improved, and that’s been a driving force behind Marketade ever since. I’m now lucky to be surrounded by a team of passionate researchers, designers and writers — and to help clients use UX to drive business results.

Current Work

  • Bringing User Research Tools to Market Research Questions — As a marketer-turned-user-researcher, I’m continually fascinated and frustrated by something I’ve observed: market research teams get the exciting questions and game-changing projects (e.g. what do we build next?), but they lack the right tools to address them. UX/user research teams have better tools, but their project impact is limited to incremental improvements to existing products (e.g. how do we make this feature easier to use?). Companies make long-term, strategic decisions based on bad data from focus groups and surveys. Then they optimize those decisions based on good data from 1:1 contextual interviews and observation sessions. I’m excited to help change this equation. Many of my favorite recent projects have allowed our team to work with companies on questions like: Who is our audience? What customer pain point should we solve next? Will customers buy or use this? Where should we take our product over the next 3 years?
  • Getting Executives Excited About UX Research — User researchers love digging into messy data. We get excited when we find patterns in a small number of in-depth sessions. Then we’re disappointed when senior management fails to share our enthusiasm and back our recommendations. Even worse when they question our small samples. On some of my favorite recent projects, we’ve turned this initial disappointment into a strategic opportunity. We recognized that many executives speak a different language — that of KPIs and big-data dashboards. So we embraced a new approach: bringing someone from data science or analytics to the party, and working alongside them to quantify our qualitative findings and validate our solution ideas. Given the siloed way that many UX, research and data science teams work at big companies, this is not an easy process. But breaking down these silos has allowed us to make messy, qualitative research more exciting to a number of executives, leading to cultural change and bottom-line impact.

Past Experience

  • Launched and led the digital marketing team for a Fortune 100 financial services company. I helped them achieve 50% year-over-year growth in online sales for 4 straight years.
  • Ran online consumer marketing for a Virginia-based online education company, Brainbench — now part of Gartner. I also built the company’s voice-of-customer program.
  • Launched 2 web startups, and worked at an economic policy think tank at George Mason University.


  • B.A. from Brown University, in political science

Outside the Office

  • I live in Bethesda, Maryland with my wife, 2 pre-schoolers, and dog Lucy.
  • I played competitive tennis through college and still play a lot. I also love surfing, yoga and Orangetheory Fitness.
  • I’m a longtime fan of music from Brazil and Africa. I’m currently hooked on Puerto Rican reggaeton.