FEATURE8 November 2021

Jonathan Wheeler – Research Hero

Features People

This year, the Market Research Society launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Jonathan Wheeler has joined the cadre of Research Heroes 2021.

Jonathan Wheeler, founding partner, The Research Club 


Jonathan Wheeler is founding partner of The Research Club, a not-for-profit international networking organisation, and managing partner at Blauw Research UK.

When Covid-19 hit, Wheeler and his team worked to re-invent The Research Club’s networking events as digital-only events, combining elements such as Zoom and text chats, live DJs, interviews, poker nights, quizzes, discos and even cocktail mixing.

Having run a series of events throughout the lockdown this culminated in a multi-media Christmas party in 2020 attended by more than 400 people across 16 countries.

Wheeler was nominated for “keeping people connected when he could have just lived off furlough and put his feet up on the sofa”.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?

Realistically I think the Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge. As an market research events company, we awoke one day to find that we simply had no way of running our networking events in the real world. It’s still a problem now, with flight restrictions in place. We needed to respond quickly to the challenge and came up with a digital solution.

Serendipity played its part in that I happened to watch a regional news item about a bunch of local nightclub owners who had used their tech skills to broadcast simultaneous music events from their kitchens, so I asked for their help and they said yes. The events were quite a novel experience and developed a character of their own – we are happy to have provided a means for researchers across different nations to congregate together during the darkest days of the pandemic to share experiences and let their hair down.

What will be the next big trend or development in the research industry, and why?

With my agency hat on, I’d say that the boundaries between qual and quant will continue to disappear as digital means of responding and analysis become more sophisticated. I love the idea of ‘big qual’ – how cool would it be to run a focus group with 100 people?

Who inspires you as a researcher?

Strangely enough, not a researcher nor a learned professor, but a photographer, the brilliant Henri Cartier-Bresson who described his technique as “capturing a unique moment in time”. I just think we all need to consider this when collecting and analysing feedback and understand that the responses given do simply reflect that moment in time in which they were given. In this sense, context is absolutely critical, and none more so than the challenging period we’ve all been living through.

View the full list of Research Heroes for 2021

In Spring 2022, MRS will be requesting nominations for Research Heroes 2022.