A Very Important Message

By Frank Blackstock

Cindy and I have an important message we would like to get out. To help get this message across, I think it is important to understand a few things about Cindy. Cindy has always been full of surprises. Growing up with immigrant parents in Cleveland, she only spoke Croatian until learning English from the neighborhood kids. The last person you would think to become a Presidential Scholar in Chemical Engineering and earn 7 US Patents. And after stepping away from the workforce for several years to stay home with our kids, probably the last person you would think to start up a very successful research business with another “mom” from our son’s school.

And she’s the last person you would ever think would be an athlete. She never swam, biked, ran, or participated in any type of sport until after we were married and decided to try to run a 10K. But, she qualified for Boston in her first marathon and just qualified for Kona (photo above) in her second Ironman….

That all being said, she’s also the last person you would think to get diagnosed with breast cancer, but unfortunately that was the case several weeks ago. The purpose of sharing this with all of you is to not make this about Cindy, but to make it about you and your loved ones. As endurance athletes, we are probably in the top 5% of the healthiest people on the planet. We are also usually over-achieving Type-A’s. This can create an air of invincibility. We are not. Cindy is fit. She eats right. She lives right. She has no history of breast cancer in her family.

The purpose of this letter is the message we want to get to you and your loved ones; GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS! Do not rely on your fitness routine alone to keep you healthy. Don’t rely on yourself to feel or find something. GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS. You hear a lot of debate in the healthcare community about whether mammograms should really be required until 50. You hear the arguments that early screening has not improved the overall outcomes. While this may be true, if you or your loved one happens to be the one outside of the “normal distribution”, then you don’t give a damn about the statistics. Don’t wait for your insurance company or doctor to figure this out.

To further illustrate this message, I would like to share how Cindy was diagnosed. Cindy turned 40 this year and went in for her recommended mammogram. She never felt a lump. Her first mammogram came back “abnormal” and a diagnostic mammogram was ordered. The second mammogram could not rule out cancer, so a biopsy was performed. The biopsy came back indicating invasive cancer. A MRI was then ordered that showed a 6cm mass. The alarming part was that no one ever felt anything. Even the trained surgeons looking at the mass on an MRI could not feel anything.

As far as Cindy and what you can do, there are a couple of things that we would really appreciate. First, we ask for your prayers, particularly on Thursday as Cindy has her first surgery. Secondly, we would appreciate your help getting the word to everyone to take screening seriously. This will be Cindy’s mission coming out of this; she has already started a scoreboard on how many women she has gotten in for their screening.

Though none of the things I mentioned about Cindy above surprised me, she is the last person I would think to get cancer. If it can happen to her, it can happen to anybody.


A Look Inside The Boomer Brain

Does your target market include baby boomers? If so, how well do you understand them? Some marketers may be missing some critical insights about this growing population. According to a recent AdAge article, the neuroscientists at Nielsen Neurofocus have good and bad news for marketers about the brains of baby boomers. What’s the bad news? As boomers age, they find it much more difficult to handle visual or verbal complexity in advertising. The good news for marketers is that boomer brains tend to experience fewer negative emotions and a greater ability to filter out negative messages.

“The silver lining for boomers and people who market to them is that the brain is far more adaptable than we thought,” says Caroline Winnett, chief marketing officer of Nielsen Neurofocus, “So the old paradigm that you get old and your brain and all your neurons die is completely getting shot down by new research.”

While many marketers may tend to gear their campaigns towards millennials, baby boomers are a very important market, making up 70% of the net worth in the United States. Therefore it is absolutely crucial for marketers to understand their baby boomer consumers are on a deeper level. With customized qualitative research, keen observation and hand-tailored strategies, Sivo Insights will provide a fresh perspective on your baby boomer demographic and reveal key insights to help you confidently shape your marketing strategy for this vital population. Do you know how to market to the baby boomer brain? Let us help you discover the possibilities.

Monthly Musings with Marilyn: A Little Movement Says A Lot

In lieu of the recent election, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about body language and how even the slightest movement can reveal a world full of valuable information and meaning. From the way someone smiles to the way they shake hands, can reveal telling emotions such as frustration, strength or timidity. So how does this apply to qualitative research? As you might recall, I wrote a blog a few months ago about the power of presence and how your presence or lack there of can greatly affect one’s ability to relate with others. As researchers, it’s our job to present ourselves in a position of strength; confidence and sincerity in order to relate with consumers and pick up on those subtle, non-verbal cues.

In order to pick up on those subtle cues, we must first be aware of our own movements and non-verbal communication. Once you become aware of your own behavior, you are then better equipped to detect the small, yet powerful movements of others. Our moderators are experts at observing and thoughtfully engaging consumers at the moment of product selection to reveal the valuable truths about what motivates the purchase. Perhaps it’s a slight tilt of the head, a smile, or a brief moment of hesitation before the consumer reaches for the product. It’s within those key moments that we are able to reveal breakthrough insights that are often undetected by the average eye.

Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School and expert on nonverbal behavior, recently shared her non-verbal insight on the first presidential debate in the video below. Take a look and see if you were able to pick up on some of the most revealing nonverbal cues:

~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner

How Well Do You Really Know Your Customer?

Every business has customers, but how well they know their customers is another question. In a recent Harvard Business Review blog, Peter Merholz explains that many large companies lose that vital interaction with their customers as their business begins to grow.

“Business cannot exist without customers, so it’s sadly ironic that many, if not most, businesses, actually understand so little about them,” says Merholz. “In order to become customer experience-driven, you need to go beyond who your customers are, and understand what they do.”

While it may feel tempting to place your customers into simple, definable categories, Merholz urges companies to dig deeper and understand their customers as real people living in a messy, complicated world.  What does that mean for your company? It means going beyond the high-level data and seeking to understand and appreciate your customer’s behavior and true motivation.

Through the use of custom qualitative research, companies have the ability to tap into those valuable insights and uncover the underlying motivations behind their customer’s unique behavior. From In-Store Intercepts, Shop-Alongs to Ethnographic Studies, the right qualitative research will provide a clear, in-depth analysis of your customer in the context of their daily lives.

How well do you know your customer? Maybe it’s time to take a deeper look…




Monthly Musings with Marilyn: Is it a Puzzle or a Mystery?

In order to determine which qualitative research approach best complements your needs, you must first clearly define your market research objectives. This involves asking the question, “Are you trying to solve a puzzle or a mystery?” Malcolm Gladwell highlights the framework to this question in his article “Open Secrets,”by referring to Gregory Treverton’s method for addressing decisions and discerning which type of problem you are dealing with.

According to Treverton’s theory, puzzles come to satisfying conclusions and provide clear and factual answers. If something goes wrong with a puzzle, identifying the culprit is easy. For example, if you are seeking a simple pulse check of your product or brand you are trying to solve a puzzle. A Communication Check could be an excellent method to determine clear insights and identify any weaknesses and strengthen opportunities.  A mystery however, is not so simple to solve. As Treverton describes, “Mysteries are a lot murkier: sometimes the information we’ve been given is inadequate, and sometimes we aren’t very smart about making sense of what we’ve been given, and sometimes the question itself cannot be answered. Mysteries require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and more often then not the hardest part is not that you have too little information, but too much.”

So how do you identify and solve a market research mystery? Mysteries require high levels of experience and discernment to wade through the ‘noise’ and uncover those underlying insights that are often easy to overlook. Exploratory research methods, such as Ethnographic Studies or In-Store Intercepts are excellent approaches for solving these kinds of complex mysteries. These methods allows us to observe how consumers actually use and experience products and services in their own environment, to determine patterns of usage, current level of satisfaction, unmet wants and needs, and suggestions for improvement. And while the answer may not be a definitive black or white like a puzzle, we are able to translate these observations into clear and valuable insights for your business.

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself the question, “Are you trying to solve a puzzle or a mystery?” If you can identify your market research objectives and discern the type problem you are facing, we can provide the answers for real business opportunities. What are you waiting for?

~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner



The Unexpected Digital Consumer You Can’t Afford to Miss

While it’s easy to assume that tech savvy 20 something’s are the leaders of the social & digital frontier, it’s another demographic that’s sweeping their way across the digital world, and it might surprise you. Moms. Today’s moms aren’t just using the digital sphere to pin their favorite home décor pieces on Pinterest or upload cute pictures of their kids on facebook. Moms have become serious digital consumers across all channels, including social media, e-commerce and mobile.

According to a recent article by TechCrunch,“One third own a connected device. They spend 6.1 hours per day on average on their smartphones – that’s more than magazines, TV or radio, to put it in perspective.” Not only are moms spending ample time on digital devices, they’re using tablets and smartphones to make frequent purchases. Recently the mobile ad network Mojiva surveyed 1,500 tablet-owning moms and discovered that a staggering 97% of moms made a purchase using their tablet in the last month.

So what does this mean for marketers? It’s time to adapt to the digital world and embrace the power of these new mediums available to consumers. From tablet-ready websites and smartphone apps, marketers need to expand their vision through a digital lens. With a deep understanding of your digital consumer, the opportunities for innovation and product acceleration are limitless. One thing we can know for sure is that the digital world is here to stay and moms are ready to shop. Are you ready to get on board?


Monthly Musings with Marilyn: The Power of Presence

If you own a dog or just love animals, then you’re probably familiar with the name Cesar Milan, aka  “The Dog Whisperer.” As host of the popular TV show, The Dog Whisperer on Nat Geo WILD, Cesar helps frustrated dog owners understand and tame their unpredictable and sometimes dangerous pets. But what fascinates viewers is not just his ability rehabilitate ferocious canines, but how he is able to communicate and understand dogs through subtle, non-verbal communication. In an instant he can snap a growling, snarling pit-bull into a calm submissive state with a subtle look and the touch of his hand. It’s simply mind-boggling to observe.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article for The New Yorker about Cesar and his unique ability to tame the untamable. Gladwell attributed Cesar’s success to one simple word, presence.

“If you are going to teach a classroom full of headstrong ten-year-olds, or run a company, or command an army, or walk into a trailer home in Mission Hills where a beagle named Sugar is terrorizing its owners, you have to have presence or you’re lost,” said Gladwell.

With no formal training, Cesar developed his presence and learned how to communicate with dogs like no one else could. “He watched and studied dogs until he felt that he could finally put himself inside the mind of a dog,” said Gladwell.

Essentially, this is exactly what we do in qualitative research, except we put ourselves in the mind of the consumer. Through keen observation and that indefinable thing called presence, we are able to relate with consumers and pick up on those subtle, non-verbal cues that help us become better listeners. And while we may not be able to understand the inner-workings of your nervous/aggressive pet, we can help you uncover key consumer insights with relevant business implications.

Cesar believes that all dogs, no matter how aggressive, can be rehabilitated through intense training, observation and understanding. But if the owners are not willing to re-train themselves and become conscious of their own movements, all efforts are wasted. Just like qualitative research, we will provide the answers and insights you need to move in the right direction, but it’s up to you to put those valuable insights into action.

~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner



A Millennial Mind Shift

Consumer behavior is constantly fluctuating and evolving. With advances in technology, changing market trends and an unstable economy, it’s more important than ever to understand your consumer. According to a recent article from NPR, the grocery business is just one of many industries feeling the pangs of all this change. In a new survey of more than 2,000 adult grocery shoppers, results revealed that Millennials prefer to shop around when it come to purchasing their groceries. And now traditional grocery stores are being forced to address the question, “What do Millennial consumers really want?” Instead of buying the same foods from the same stores like their baby boomer parents or grandparents, Millennials find far more value in things like convenience and freshness over brand or store loyalty. Now it’s up to the grocery store companies to take the next step by utilizing research to better understand their Millennial shoppers and address their needs. Click the link below to see how research is helping the grocery industry navigate this Millennial Mind Shift:

Link to Article: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/07/11/156625861/wake-up-call-to-grocery-stores-young-people-shop-around

Monthly Musings with Marilyn: Letting Go of the Driver’s Seat

We make decisions all the time. We decide what to eat, where to shop, how we want to live our lives and how we want to run our businesses. But is it always better to be in charge when we’re making decisions? Or are we better off giving someone else the wheel?

In a recent video from TED.com, Baba Shiv, a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business discusses why it can benefit us to take the passengers seat and let the experts make the calls. Whether it means trusting a financial advisor with your retirement planning or relying on a doctor for the very best treatment, you want a positive outcome. The same idea applies to research. You want the best results and the most valuable insights for your company. So instead of relying on your own knowledge, give yourself some peace of mind and let the experts take the wheel. With years of experience, proven techniques and methodologies, you will rest assured that the experts in the driver’s seat will provide a positive and beneficial outcome.

Watch the full video below and ask yourself the question: Is it time for you to let go of the wheel?

~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner


Monthly Musings with Marilyn: Tamable Problems

Recently I stumbled upon a thought-provoking piece in The New Yorker that really got me thinking about the different types of problems we face in the world. The excerpt below is a portion from the article that piqued my interest and forced me to ask the question, “what kinds of problems does qualitative research solve?”

Excerpt: “In 1973, two social scientists, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, defined a class of problems they called “wicked problems.” Wicked problems are messy, ill-defined, more complex than we fully grasp, and open to multiple interpretations based on one’s point of view. They are problems such as poverty, obesity, where to put a new highway—or how to make sure that people have adequate health care.They are the opposite of “tame problems,” which can be crisply defined, completely understood, and fixed through technical solutions. Tame problems are not necessarily simple—they include putting a man on the moon or devising a cure for diabetes. They are, however, solvable. Solutions to tame problems either work or they don’t.”

At Sivo Insights it isn’t our goal to solve the “wicked” problems like world peace or hunger. It is our job however to help solve the “tame” problems through keen observation and creative techniques. So what does a “tame” problem look like? Perhaps it’s uncovering how shoppers navigate a store shelf? Or maybe it’s evaluating packaging design, identifying the target consumer for a product, or determining the how users navigate your website? The one thing that all of these issues have in common is that they are 100% solvable, tamable problems. It simply works or it doesn’t. Our job as qualitative researchers is to find the solution that does work. From Communication Checks, In-Store Research, Shop-Alongs to Product Concept Testing, we provide real solutions to some of the most complex “tame” problems. As long as you can define the problem we will find the answers.

~Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner

Click here to read the full article: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/06/something-wicked-this-way-comes.html




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