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More About the WIRe MRX Diversity Champion Award Winner: Denene Jonielle Rodney

Michelle Andre

October 25, 2017

We were excited to present the first ever MRX Diversity Champion Award this past TMRE show to Denene Jonielle Rodney. Here is a little more about our 2017 award winner!

Denene Jonielle Rodney is a talented and enthusiastic entrepreneur with more than 17 years of business experience in marketing, advertising, and strategic planning.

She is the CEO and founder of Zebra Strategies, an organization that specializes in research design and focus-group moderating and recruiting.  She established her company, located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, nearly two decades ago when she realized that she aspired to help people—from individuals to C-level executives at multimillion-dollar corporations—to understand the differences in culture, ethnicity, and socioeconomic experiences that create the different lenses through which we see the world.

Ms. Rodney lives by the maxim: “Be curious—but not judgmental”. Perhaps this is the reason people feel at ease in her presence and are so willing to open up to her.  She has that unique quality that allows her to communicate on the same level as someone with a sixth-grade education just as easily as she can impress a room full of corporate executives.

With almost two decades of experience to her credit, she conducts research using a myriad of methods including: focus groups, dyads, triads, in-depth interviews, executive interviews, in-homes, shop-alongs, recruiting, street interviews, and ethnographies.  She has acquired her extensive business acumen and professionalism through many years of determination and hard work—accepting challenges in an array of business sectors including Consumer, Business to Business, Pharmaceutical, Public Health, Not-for-Profit, Social/Political Issues, and Multicultural/Ethnic research assignments for a combination of government, not-for-profits, and corporate clients.

Ms. Rodney offers an exceptional ability to moderate, observe, and assess client responses—and then yield qualitative and quantitative research findings to develop substantive business strategies.  She is an effective communicator and listener in politically sensitive situations and environments and a multicultural specialist for research involving diverse socioeconomic populations.

As extensions to Zebra Strategies, Ms. Rodney added nycintercept.com and money4talk.com to broaden her expertise and clientele.  Clients including Aetna, McCann Erickson, Saatchi & Saatchi, the NYC and Philadelphia Departments of Education, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, and the NYC Department of Health have engaged her to conduct research.

Ms. Rodney has always been adaptable, able to mentally transport herself to a day in someone else’s shoes and easily grasp where they are coming from; she brings that same understanding to her work, designing unique research methods that take into account the nuances that someone with a more traditional background might overlook.  She was once told by a safari leader: “Zebras’ stripes may all look the same, but every single zebra has an individual stripe pattern.”  Although large corporations may prefer to place all black, white, Hispanic, poor, wealthy, old, or young people into neat little pigeonholes, each person—each culture—nevertheless, has a unique stripe pattern.  And Ms. Rodney takes pride in the fact that it’s her job to not only acknowledge those differences but to use them to produce better business decisions.

Currently, Ms. Rodney moderates focus groups for various clients, and designs research and analysis around client objectives of national and regional impact in the areas that include health care, social justice, and consumer and cause marketing.  She works with clients to identify marketing strategies to include qualitative research, brand equity, and target market development for various public, private, and social media campaigns.  In addition, she manages a staff of intercept interviewers for surveys and questionnaires for various public and private sector clients.

Previous positions she has held include Associate Director, Expense & Travel Management for Warner Music Group, and Client Services Manager at another firm, where she maintained corporate relationships and managed accounts in excess of $20 million.

Ms. Rodney holds a B.S. from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications and an M.S. from New York University’s School of Continuing Education. She is on the board of trustees at Monroe College, and is a proud member of the American Marketing Association, Marketing Research Association, and ESOMAR.  At Columbia Business School, she is a member of the Reentry Acceleration Program (REAP), an organization with a goal of helping 200 employers to hire 2,000 formerly incarcerated people by 2020.

Married ten years, Ms. Rodney is an enthusiastic world traveler, and you will rarely see her without her face in a book.  A native New Yorker, she said, “I love all of New York City—and not just Manhattan—because it is a vibrant and diverse city.”

About the Author

Managing Director for Women in Research

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