When Change is driven by Ch-ch-ch-ch-ChangeS


In 2016 we lost one of the greatest collaborators of all time. Arguably the key to David Bowie’s longevity was his ability to reinvent, not only through his own indisputable creative prowess but also through his astute selection of partners who would make unique and relevant contributions to his creative output.  

We can gain so much from Bowie – even in the world of business – and not just from letting the Sonos immerse us in his musical legacy to help ease an afternoon of hardcore data interpretation! Far more important is to explore his mastery of effective integration. So often, he perfected the delicate balance of absorbing new elements, while retaining the crux of his own inimitable style. Whether Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke; whether collaborating with Tony Visconti or Nile Rogers, he remained faithful to his core identity of David Bowie, and by doing so achieved an unique intellectual and creative integrity. 

A rock and pop icon may be an unusual inspiration for an insight and strategy consultancy, but our most effective client insight engagements demonstrate many of the same qualities. We retain a core essence of Kadence in everything we do – our integrity – founded on data quality, storytelling, compelling and creative visual outputs, and a client-first mentality; but similar to Bowie, we wholeheartedly embrace new ideas, approaches and methodologies – when they can add value to and complement our core ethos.

Retaining a distinctive identity is essential given that every project we do is for a different business issue – and often indeed, different clients. This is essentially the Kadence brand; a sense of self that we can fall back on to ensure that we always deliver to our core values, regardless of the situation; a common lexicon and set of internal expectations; a philosophy that ties our team together and allows us to work efficiently, effectively and to our own exacting standards. We codify this through the ground-breaking Kadence University, templates, training documents, our ‘One Kadence’ intranet, international staff secondments, industry awards, social events, social media – everyone is infused with what it is to be Kadence.

Having said this, collaborating and innovating are also important to us. Our goal is to generate a fusion of appropriate techniques to ensure creative, yet pragmatic thinking is brought to the clients’ challenge. ‘Qual then quant’; ‘an online phase, followed by some groups’ (and other process-related sound bites) are the lexicon of a bygone generation. It is the intrinsic fusion of research tools into solutions that enables Kadence to identify the evidential proof points that make concrete and tangible changes to our clients’ businesses.

Equally, new methodological wizardry is not to be overlooked. It feeds our (alter) egos to try out a supposed panacea and tell our colleagues, friends and clients how we’re at the cutting edge of marketing thinking. Just recently, the Kadence team has contributed to developments in passive tracking, UX labs, selfie ethnography and AI-driven comparative language analysis – and all to great effect.

But just as Bowie managed to retain an essential artistic integrity, the projects in which we typically deliver the greatest value are where we have blended new thinking with an inner core of expertise. It is through this integration that recommendations for change are their most powerful and inspiring. Recently indeed, by harnessing our position as qualitative experts, we combined conventional observational techniques (diaries) with cutting-edge technology-driven solutions (online ethnography and passive measurement) which provided a rich spectrum of insight and compelling evidence to influence, convince and persuade our client to ch-ch-ch-ch-change their business strategy. This fusion of techniques resulted in a project which truly delivered on Kadence’s core mission.

Bowie collaborated with the guitarist Mick Ronson for many years, this partnership producing the iconic Top of the Pops ‘Starman’ performance and the unique guitar and vocal interplay on ‘The Fall And Rise Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ album. It is often the ongoing alliances that produce the best results.

In the world of insight, ongoing partnerships with clients mean we naturally gain a greater appreciation of their commercial context. As a result, when we engage with customers on any one business question, our eyes and ears are simultaneously open to the wider business or brand challenge and so we’re more likely to chance upon the broader insights that will make a real difference. This wider knowledge comes organically through longer term engagements, but part of being Kadence is to accelerate this level of immersion from the start of any project. To get a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective on a brief and an understanding of what it will take to make our clients’ jobs easier.

Achieving truly flexible thinking is no mean feat. It takes a high degree of integration; of different approaches, opinions and the wider context. But it is the only way we are going to create a little stardust of our own.