brilliant corners is a nationally and internationally recognized polling firm that conducted ground breaking work on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, which culminated in its widely successful 50 state strategy. As lead pollster for the DNC, brilliant corners was instrumental in expanding the electorate and provided the foundation for the historic gains of the 2008 presidential election. In addition to its critical role as a member of the Obama for America polling team, brilliant corners continues to assist high profile corporate clients with their branding and reposition needs.
brilliant corners also operates as a boutique polling firm specializing in strategies for targeting and constructing alliances with specific audiences that include youth and culturally diverse and emerging markets. In today’s swiftly evolving environments we offer our clients continuous consultation using a more agile hands-on service model that enables the brilliant corners team to assist our clients in forging new pathways through difficult terrain in the political, policy, opinion and market research arenas.
At brilliant corners, we’ve dispensed with the formulaic approaches still in heavy rotation by too many in the field that at best can provide a road map for the roads already traveled. Our eyes are always focused on expansion. Our goal is to help clients stake out new territory that can impact critical electoral and market segments by providing thoughtful, relevant, and values-driven communication frameworks. Currently, our next-step approach to research design is relied upon by a number of major progressive organizations and high-profile corporate clients.
Today, more than ever before, voters are increasingly sophisticated about political salesmanship and overly skeptical of the political message and the message drivers. Voters now outright reject conventional political packaging and instead are now attracted to authenticity. The public doesn’t demand total agreement with the message ― they demand total sincerity from the messenger. Candidates must cross a new threshold where they are judged more for the integrity of their convictions and core beliefs than for the specific issue or policies they advocate. In this new environment, issues are an important metaphorical backdrop, but are not the primary field of battle.
“The public doesn’t demand total agreement with the message ― they demand total sincerity from the messenger!”
Far too often Democratic political consultants use polling as a tool to define the issue terrain. Irrespective of individual candidate’s strengths or weaknesses the campaign then unfolds based on a misguided belief that an election is as much a referendum on policies and issues as it is a judgment on individual candidates, values, and character. Under this scenario, voters are purely logical beings, armed with a wealth of information about the candidates’ positions, will understand the issues at stake in the election, comprehend subtle differences between candidates on the important issues of the day, and make rational decisions by comparing their own issue positions to those of the candidates.
Obviously, it’s a slight exaggeration to say Democratic consultants follow only the rational issue model, because no one ascribes to only one philosophy. And some in the Democratic Party do indeed talk the talk when it comes to acknowledging the importance of values, character, and narrative in political messaging. But we have found that when it comes right down to it – when it comes down to making decisions about how to poll and what kinds of ads to cut and what kinds of messages to disseminate ― old habits die hard and all too often Democratic consultants fall back into the old familiar paradigm of the issue-driven campaign.
“We believe we have an imperative to flee as quickly as possible from whatever direction conventional wisdom is herding cookie cutter consultants.”
We know good polling doesn’t put its finger to the wind to find the most convenient current issue frame for a given candidate. We believe good polling must understand the values and convictions that drove a candidate to get in the fight in the first place. Good polling understands a candidate’s core principles, and endeavors to connect those principles with the core values that drive voters. Good polling works to uncover how best to shape a narrative – about a candidate, about voters, about government, and about the problems they face – that touches people on a visceral, intuitive level. Good polling helps a campaign to craft a clear, simple message that everyone can easily understand and articulate. These are the services that brilliant corners is uniquely suited to provide.
Political Research – We explore key issues to understand the underlying values that impact and connect communities and voters to a campaign and help develop communications that resonate with people in a real and relevant way. Our job is to assess the climate around a given issue or candidate and find ways to cultivate a majority coalition in our client’s favor.
Market/Opinion Research and Strategy – Here, the bulk of our work is comprised of both quantitative and qualitative research that allows us to assess diverse markets with an eye toward building broad alliances for political or corporate campaigns. While we specialize in African American and youth markets and constituencies, our research techniques transcend race and demographics. We believe that our research provides our clients with the essential tools necessary to make profitable and sound targeting decisions.
Public/Corporate Policy Research – Investigative study is conducted to develop and frame policy for public or private entities. It’s a thorough assessment of the organization or company’s issue agenda and a test of how potential policy approaches fare in experimental research models. Message frameworks are then constructed to best position a product or initiative with the public and to encourage movement toward those positions.
Cornell Belcher is President of brilliant corners Research & Strategies, a political contributor to CNN, and one of the premier strategists in national progressive politics as well as in the rebranding of corporate America. Cornell served as Pollster for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) under Chairman Howard Dean making him the first minority to lead in that role for either national Party. He also served on the polling team for both Obama presidential campaigns. Over the years, Cornell has worked with both Senate and House Democrats as Senior Political Advisor to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in the 2002 cycle and Special Projects Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in the 2000 cycle. And Cornell served as Women VOTE! Coordinator for EMILY’s List in the 1998 cycle, helping to put together communication and GOTV operations targeting women voters all over the country.
Belcher is an experienced hand at campaign politics and has years of expertise in quantitative and qualitative research, message development, and product and behavioral insight. Founding brilliant corners in 2001, he is considered the vanguard for demographic trends among the emerging younger and browner America. Both the political and corporate world seek his counsel to decipher emerging trends and to develop communication strategies for reaching this coalition redefining the American marketplace. In 2008 and 2012, youth and minority voters over-indexed and changed the face of the electorate helping not only President Obama, but progressive candidates and issues up and down the ballot; indeed in 2012 African American voter turnout surpassed that of whites for the first time in history. Both historic watershed moments that greatly depended on Cornell’s nonconformist contributing work.
As the pollster for the Democratic National Committee under the pioneering Chairmanship of Governor Howard Dean, he was able to ignore beltway criticisms and take the ational Party’s research into previously unchartered directions, exploring how best to challenge Republicans’ strengths among voters in supposedly untouchable “red states,” particularly “faith” or “values first” voters. Cornell’s research helped rebrand and reposition the Democratic Party to better compete for voters in areas previously thought to be lost to Democrats. Under Governor Dean’s leadership, Cornell helped to construct a savvy framework for the visionary 50 State Strategy that expanded the Democratic footprint on the electoral map and ultimately produced a Democratic realignment. Asked about Cornell’s role, Governor Dean was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that the research conducted by brilliant corners for the DNC was “the best poll [he'd] seen in ten years.”
Cornell has built brilliant corners into an established brand that organizations and companies seek out daily for its unique perspective and creative approach. Additionally, Belcher was recognized for his stellar contribution to the field as one of the pollsters of the year by the Association of Political and Public Affairs Professionals (APPC). Twice Cornell has been named to The Root 100, a list of the top 100 African American achievers and influencers in the country. He has been featured in a variety of media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Black Enterprise, The Root, The Atlantic, POLITICO, CNN, The Russ Parr Show, Anderson Cooper 360, BET, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Melissa Harris-Perry, and BBC.