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What Market Researchers Can Learn from New Orleans Jazz

Posted by Rebecca Koppie on Oct 10, 2016

New Orleans Jazz represents a mix of individualism and cooperation - a merger of tradition and progress. It has an emotionally-evocative sound, with the ability to express a full range of sentiments reflecting the city’s rich and sometimes difficult history.

I recently attended ESOMAR Congress as a Corporate Young Professional representative from LiGHTSPEED. Peppered throughout the conference were the sounds and tastes of New Orleans, giving the global market research audience in attendance a sense of New Orleans culture and history while we learned about market research being conducted across the world. One such “sound” was keynote speaker Dr. Michael White, an acclaimed jazz musician and historian. I encourage you to check out some of his work here

Market research must always be responsive

Dr. White and the other members of the quartet performed multiple songs for the audience, interspersed with his own musings on the style of jazz that is specific to New Orleans. He illustrated the agility of New Orleans Jazz by playing unsplash_52a795f546637_1.jpgthe same song at three different tempos, each of which resulted in very different emotional impacts. The musicians could deliver the same exact song, ranging from a peppy, upbeat delivery to a slow, somber march.

Market research, similarly, must always be agile in offering the appropriate design, responding to changes in the scope of work, and delivering results in a way that best illuminate what the client seeks. We must be innovative in the way our projects are designed and how we display results, and we must be flexible in the way we work.

Market research must reinterpret old ideas in new ways

The quartet demonstrated how they combine the new with the old by playing new music through the lens of jazz. Dr. White pulled part of the chorus from Christina Perri’s song “A Thousand Years” and incorporated it into a more traditional jazz song. It was recognizable, but completely transformed by the assimilation. Then, the quartet played Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” and converted the song into a full jazz version – again, we all knew the song but it was reengineered with the distinct jazz style.

Mirroring this, market researchers must continue to innovate and work on incorporating new methods into their research. Surveys may be tried-and-true, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be freshened up. Projects that marry quantitative with qualitative, incorporate video or virtual reality, or reach consumers in real-time are not only in-demand, but necessary to stay current in the fast-paced consumer-driven world.

Market research must exhibit our passion through our work

The performance also evoked, for many, an emotional reaction. In between songs, Dr. White described how his life experiences, from growing up in New Orleans during the Civil Rights Movement to losing friends, loved ones, and his life’s research into jazz during Hurricane Katrina, have had a monumental influence on shaping his work. Getting a glimpse into what motivates him, how his personal style developed, and what drives his passion helped the audience strongly connect with the performance. Caught up in the moment, l tweeted:

I have formed a sudden emotional attachment to New Orleans Jazz. Amazing heartfelt presentation and performance. #ESOMAR” 

Discussing the performance with others the next day, I was asked if I was the girl toward the left side of the room who was wiping away tears. For the record, I genuinely don’t think that was me… but clearly others were caught up in the passion exhibited by Dr. White and his fellow performers.

And while I don’t expect a well-executed research project to bring anyone to tears, we do need to develop our own (individual or company-wide) styles that showcase our own passion for our work. At the end of ESOMAR Congress, people were energized. People were excited. We all took what we had learned and experienced and went home to our companies to – hopefully – continue to craft our individual styles of research by incorporating everything new we learned into our current work.


Topics: Market Research, esomar

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