Profile: Jason Brownlee

What do you do?

Help people understand how their brand or medium works. We simply show people the anatomy of their brand: they then know the best way to dress it so it looks marvellous.

What’s your most useful skill?

Having new ideas every day. I believe it’s imperative to keep moving, never assume we’ve arrived. Today, only innovators survive.

What do you know about research?

Don’t kill what you’re trying to measure.

Nineteenth century scientists studied butterflies by killing them and pinning them: it didn’t give them anything like the full picture. A true picture comes from observing an entity in action, in a way which does not intrude, change or freeze-frame. A butterfly doesn’t operate in a vacuum and neither does a brand. It’s imperative to look at the culture in which a brand operates, and understand the complexity of that culture.

What do you know about marketing?

Leave it to people who know what they’re doing.

Talented marketing people immediately spot the application of the results of research – they need me to show them the patterns, not the responses. I give them the cheekbones: they design the dress…

How did you get here?

I studied at Goldsmith’s alongside the Turner Prize’s usual suspects. That degree of exposure to true creativity doesn’t leave you. So when I took up conventional media research with Emap, I was straining at the leash to see what we could do differently, better. The first digital wave was just breaking, and I got my hands on the younger and wilder end of the brand spectrum. I helped take brands like Kerrang, Q and Kiss into digital formats at just the right time.

There was more to do, though, and I wanted more freedom to develop as new media channels started to show vast possibilities for marketing. So in 2004 I went on to create a successful media research consultancy called Other lines of enquiry – the clue’s in the title. In this newer, smaller firm I was set loose to try out and develop new media research technologies. I worked on eye-tracking, SMS surveys and online media engagement testing. Innovation like this attracted major market players and media owners onto our books.

I set up Dollywagon in 2008. I established a partnership with e-Therapeutics, which took the research offer up another level – in fact, to a place that no-one else has yet reached. For the first time, we’re going to be able to uncover complex relationships between all the media – managed and free-form, commercial and personal – that a brand ever touches. We’re at the start of a second wave in brand and media research.