The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Obituary: John Cronk

Mark Earls remembers qualitative researcher John Cronk.

I first met John in 1990 when we worked together in the in the exciting renegade melee of Adam Morgan's planning department at the impossibly named Still Price Court Twivy D'Souza, but John had started his career earlier training in qualitative research with Chris Stride. "Cronky" — more than most — fused the practical skills of both these disciplines throughout his career. In doing so he frequently sailed where others wouldn't.

With John Sergeant, he started the research agency Navigator partly to explore the value of superficial and immediate insights, gained from individual interviews recruited on the street (when others were obsessed with new ways to get to deep and profound insights from prerecruited focus groups). As the rest of us were trumpeting the primacy of consumer insight, John started a research agency with Sean Dromgoole to fund their shared ambitions in film production. He even found himself his own client when he co-founded a chain of Italian fast-food restaurants.

John's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor contribution to Brand New Brand Thinking gives landlubbers a real insight into his instinctive feel for his first love — sailing — and how much it shaped his professional life. In it, he forces us to think about market research as sailors do a weather forecast (essential but not to be followed at all times — a radical idea for someone who spent much of his career being paid for doing research).

He advised the need to weigh alternative courses of action based on the conditions (rather than assume that there is one "correct" answer). Or more profoundly, that very often in the real world, tactics are as important as the "grand" strategy that we prefer; indeed he proposes you adopt a "startegy" — a course of action that will give you competitive advantage as the race gets under way but one you are prepared to change later as the race unfolds.

Loving father of four delightful and remarkable children and good friend to many, John was a fantastic companion and reliable confidant. He was always generous with his time and affection. Even during the last couple of years of his illness, he was never happier than when he could sympathise or advise those he cared for — or just tinker with something in the muddy waters off Kew Marina where his houseboat is moored.

 

Mark Earls
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2012