When people ask us the name of our firm, the significance of brilliant corners often seems to be missed. Our firm is named after the seminal jazz album from Thelonious Monk, which captured the dissonance and improvisation characteristic of one of America’s greatest cultural contributions. Jazz is based on the fundamental elements of music but relies heavily on improvisation and a willingness to experiment. You could say that it is this spirit to try new things, to never settle with the status quo, that helps explain jazz.
To us, brilliant corners is not merely an homage to one of Cornell’s favorite albums. It is an expression of our mindset to eschew the formulaic and remain focused on new ways to think about problems that confront our clients. We remain rooted in the science of our profession but are constantly looking to shake up the same old tired way of approaching things in favor of new approaches, of new ways to break through to even the most entrenched voters and consumers. It has recently become popular to question whether polling can really speak to the groups who are traditionally hardest to reach – and those who question this are correct, but only in as much as they themselves remain rooted in the old way of doing things. We have become leaders in this area, tapped by Obama for America to conduct this specific research for the 2012 re-elect campaign, and we delivered stunning increases in voter turnout and motivation from the historic 2008 campaign. Everyone told us this could not be done, but everyone else was using out of date methods to accomplish a new age goal. It was not the first time we had led the charge for a new line of thinking to overcome emerging challenges in a changing environment.
Several years ago, when Democrats realized they could stop fighting the same issue-driven fights in the same narrow battleground of states, there were some that believed this more traditional line of thinking would only lead to continued defeats. These people believed that Democrats could play everywhere, not just traditionally Democratic states, and could communicate on anything, not just the same mantras we had been pounding away at for years. We were not merely among the first to the table for this line of thinking; we helped build the table. Prior to our work with Obama for America, brilliant corners conducted ground breaking work on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, culminating in its widely successful 50 state strategy. As lead pollster for the DNC, brilliant corners was a key advocate in expanding the electorate and our research provided the foundation for re-positioning the national party which helped lead to the historic gains of 2006 and 2008.
Cornell likes to say that what we do is as much art as science. As with any talented jazz musician, we believe in the enduring elements of research that are grounded in statistical science, but we also believe in a spirit of improvisation, of daring to try new things. It is this mix that allows us to bring a fresh approach to every project, that pushes us to continually evolve and find new ways to tackle new problems, and that continue to put brilliant corners at the forefront of market research.