SIVO Team Member Spotlight: Jennifer Dilley, Research Director From Wine Novice to Enthusiast

Jennifer at the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Marathon


Jennifer Dilley’s interest in wine began in college.  She preferred Ernest and Julio Gallo boxed wine to the typical beer fare; and she also had an inkling that she wanted to know more about it.  Fast forward to her 30th birthday, when her sister surprised her with a sibling reunion trip to the Napa Valley in California.  Jennifer, her sister and brother all boarded a “wine train” that runs through Napa for a special monthly dinner; it featured a local chef and wine pairings.  That chef happened to be Thomas Keller, the legendary founder of The French Laundry in Yountville.  At the time, the Dilley table had no idea who he was (or how lucky they were to meet him!).

The wine that was paired with the Keller dinner hailed from Ceja vineyards, a nearby farm owned by two Mexican-American couples.  The Ceja owners loved the Dilley family and their story of the sibling’s meeting in Napa so much that they were invited back to the Ceja vineyard at the conclusion of the train ride.  Imagine vines, gorgeous fields, a picnic table under an open sky, homemade cactus salsa, and eight bottles of wine, and you can see why Jennifer’s first true introduction to wine was downright magical.  They blissfully lingered in the fields for hours!

Some years later, Jennifer and her sister hadn’t been back to Napa for quite a while, so they decided to meet there again, but this time with a new purpose:  conquering the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half-Marathon. Though neither are avid runners, wine was their motivation and the sisters decided to run a half-marathon on the vacation.  “When there is wine tasting at mile 10—why go anywhere else?” said Jennifer.

Jennifer liked it so much that she kept going back year after year.  This summer would have been her sixth half marathon and her third time running in this event.  Alas, a foot injury foiled the plan, so instead she watched the start of the race and got to enjoy the paella and wine as an enthusiastic spectator.  Like one of her favorite race signs read, “Run it fast, take it slow—either way you’ll get merlot!”

Jennifer and husband, Erik


When Jennifer met her husband Erik, he was already a wine enthusiast.  “He remembers regions, labels and vineyards much more than I do,” said Jennifer.  “We have a wine cellar, and it’s something we really enjoy together.”  Napa Valley cabernets are their favorites.

The couple makes time for their wine hobby in the Twin Cities, too. At Lela, a restaurant at the Sheraton hotel in Bloomington, they often try the monthly wine dinner featuring a five-course pairing and they enjoy taking Twin Cities Wine Education classes at North Loop Wine & Spirits.  A more leisurely weekend outing for them is to Schram Vineyards in Waconia—it’s a bucolic lakeside setting with bocce courts and food trucks.

Jennifer is also planning on visiting future wine destinations in Washington, Oregon, France and Italy.  “Vineyards have such a lovely ambience—the people just want you to enjoy the wine. So how can you not have a good time?” said Jennifer.


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Passport to Curiosity: Big Questions from the Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research 


Written by:  Jennifer Hinton, Research Strategist, SIVO Insights

“Curiosity is the attribute that unites qualitative researchers the world over. Curiosity is what gets us out of bed in the morning and carries us through those long working hours. But we need to invest in it, to continually fuel it, in order to keep our edge.”- QRCA Conference Program

“Mantente curioso:”  What are qualitative researchers most curious about?

It’s spring in Valencia, Spain, at the 2018 Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research.  With a little help from my Google Translate app, I learn what “Stay Curious” sounds like in Spanish, before the keynote begins. Café con leche in hand, surrounded by my fellow researchers from around the world, I’m ready to get serious about being curious.

I arrived in Valencia several days before the conference to explore the city, and my inner curiosity meter was already on high.  With the insights from guidebooks, I was ready to experience all the things the locals love, and learn for myself what made them so special, even if they scared me a little bit.  Starting dinner at 9 p.m.?   Anchovies in orange vermouth?  O.K., I’m intrigued.  Which leads me to the first of three “big questions” from the conference…

Big Question #1:  How Do We Deliver More “Experience” To Our Clients?

One pervasive theme in the presentations:  Although insights are important, helping clients emotionally connect to these insights is critical.

“Insights are Dead: Long Live Insights!” shouted one presentation title and noted that while most insights are clearly articulated in deliverables, only 50% are implemented, in part due to this lack of emotional connection to the consumer experience. *  One presenter referenced Pine and Gilmore’s The Experience Economy as a way to drive home the point that we need to help insights come alive by helping clients “feel them.”  Some ideas discussed on how to do this:

— Allotting 10% of budget for experience-related activities.

— Virtual reality as the next iteration of video highlights for consumer immersion experiences.

— Creative events and activities targeting spaces where products are used (Ex: A Heineken case study showed clients went clubbing with millennials to experience their beverage choices).

SIVO does this in a few ways:  Our video storytelling highlights consumers’ voices to keep insights alive in a dynamic way.  And ‘be the consumer’ and client immersion exercises get clients away from their desks and into the shoes of their consumers for an exercise in true empathy.

The author with storytelling expert and speaker Oana Popa Rengle


Big Question #2:  How Can Other Professions Inform Insight Gathering Best Practices and Methodologies? 

Whether it was method acting, storytelling, or even uni-cycling, researchers explored what can be learned from professionals in other fields to elevate our qualitative game.

One presenter interviewed six individuals who practice “the art of interlocution” including an NPR journalist, newspaper reporter, philosopher, anthropologist, litigator, and psychotherapist.  She found good qualitative work involves three key roles: observer, storyteller and advocate, and suggested that we be mindful to give attention to each role in our methodology and deliverables.

At SIVO, we:

— Utilize System 1 thinking to hone our observation of consumer behavior at the First Moment of Truth.

— Draw out the inner storyteller in our respondents with customized pre-work activities.

— Create reports that champion the consumer’s experience by elevating insights with first person personas told in THEIR language.

Big Question #3:  When and Where Do We Need (More) Technology?

“How the Future of A.I. Makes Moderators More Important” was well-received, earning a best presentation award for its complexity and message.  Artificial Intelligence is surely changing the value of different types of work associated with our research.

I won’t attempt to summarize it here, but spoiler alert, in the future, moderators will still be analyzing data and reporting it, while artificial intelligence will be another tool in our tech tool box.

Visit SIVO Village, In the Country of Curiosity

We often refer to ourselves as the “SIVO Village,” a term I loved the first time I heard it. After attending the conference, I realized our Village is based in the “country” of curiosity – we all eat, sleep, love, and breathe it! I came away from the conference inspired both by the ideas shared, and by the knowledge that I work with colleagues who ask big questions of ourselves for our clients. Just like that guidebook that came alive for me in Spain, I plan to bring consumer insights alive in the most compelling ways I can, and help our clients stay curious.

* Schillewaert & Pallini, “What Do Clients Think About MR Impact?”, Greenbook, 2014





Customer Experience (CX) in Context

Written by: Cindy Blackstock, Managing Partner

Customer experience—say it and everyone’s ears perk up.  It’s the hot topic in our industry.  While attending the recent CX Next conference in Boston with the SIVO team, we saw how CX is influencing and intersecting with consumer insights.


The X Factor

Despite being a shiny and buzzworthy idea, it seems as though there is not yet a singular, agreed-upon, industry-wide definition for the term customer experience – affectionately referred to as CX.  We spoke with presenters and attendees at the conference and asked, “Tell us what customer experience is about.”  We never got the same answer.  It became apparent that everyone is exploring what that “X” factor means for categories, brand and products.

Here at SIVO, we have our own perspective:

Customer experience is the customer’s perceptions, thoughts and feelings about their interactions related to an organization or brand.

In truth, we have been working to reveal the customer experience all along.  For us, it’s not an intimidating or nebulous concept, because we are qualitative experts who can uncover these customer perceptions.  We get to the “why” behind the customer experience data and translate it into actionable ideas that businesses can use. Our work goes hand in hand with the emerging discipline of CX.

Data + Stories = A Winning Formula

At the conference, we learned that for typical customer experience research, the information is primarily quantitative.  Quantitative research is essential for validation, since data, surveys and results play a role in helping to measure change over time.  But the process can’t stop there, since survey data is not a comprehensive measure of the consumer’s voice.

I believe clients need a better blend of data and stories—companies need to have the human component, the truly “experiential” piece to bring the data to life.  And to make a business impact, organizations need that qualitative, intimate understanding to find out what is behind the data.  I think the quantitative helps identify whatto fix, and qualitative helps identify howto fix it.

The Brand Voyage

Customers are also on a journey with a brand.  And it’s the whole trip, not the individual stops on the route that predict success.  For example, the customer service may be acceptable, but the whole brand experience is negative for the user.  So a brand might get a high rating in a survey about customer service, but that one interaction will not reveal the whole story. Brands need to talk to customers and ask, “How are you doing?” instead of, “How are we (the company) doing?” These questions reveal the crucial and impactful, human element of CX.

The brand journey is also structured differently for customers.  Most organizations are vertical, while experience for customers is horizontal.  SIVO stiches together a map, an outline of the horizontal journey of the customer experience.  From there, we decide where to go deeper:

  • Start with customer voices
  • Create a customer journey map
  • Identify the touch points
  • Dive deep into processes, tools and people

With key consumer insights to illuminate the quantitative data, customer experience can be a true relationship.  Customers can interact with the brand across each and every touchpoint, instead of a one-time “event.”

Making CX Count

When customers have many stops along the total journey with a brand, there are many opportunities to engage and enhance the relationship.  And SIVO believes in leveraging those touchpoints to make a real impact:

  • Exceed expectations where they count
  • Make a positive impact at critical moments and earn loyalty
  • Make the customer experience have real meaning

Carry these thoughts in your “suitcase” as you embark your own journey.



Need Insights, Will Travel: SIVO Translates Emotional Drivers Into Business Impact

Written By: Ruthie Feinstein, Director of Insights & Strategy

Minneapolis. Paris. Sydney. A five-month long project involving three time zones, two languages, a team of translators, moderators and a film crew. Last month, I was fortunate enough to take a journey around the world with the SIVO team to lead a consumer insights project for a global CPG brand. Here are some highlights.

Client as our co-pilot

One thing I love about SIVO is our commitment to partnership. With our clients, our goal is to act as a true extension of their team, from beginning to end. So, before we even arrived, we established key touchpoints with our U.S., Paris and Sydney client teams to establish rapport and provide thought leadership. We also wanted to instill confidence about the many logistics that happen on a massive project like this.

Morning drive past the Eiffel Tower, Paris on way to respondent’s home


Client engagement in the project was also critical. Our “relational” vs. “transactional” approach to insights work means that we bring clients along on the insights journey so they can experience the learning first-hand. This also helps clients have more impact when they socialize insights internally and are able to apply them to business objectives faster.

On this project, we developed a fun and interactive consumer empathy exercise where the local teams stepped out of the conference room and put themselves in the shoes of their consumers.

They needed to understand what people truly experience when buying their products…. the good, the bad and the ugly. A work session to discuss their observations and implications to the upcoming consumer work followed. This exercise was a great primer for the consumer research since it provided context and a stronger foundation for the insights to “land.” And – client teams were now more energized and excited to hear what people had to say! They can listen with an informed ear having had recent, direct experiences of their own. Much more impactful.

Cultural context

In preparation for our arrival, we did our own empathy prep work too, by consulting with our strategic partners in Paris and Sydney. These conversations connected us to the local mood, the political climate in each country, and how people felt about an American being in their home. We video-chatted with trusted local experts to understand the nuances that would help us make people feel comfortable. It was critical that we would be curious while being respectful of local norms and customs.

Bonjour and G’day Mates!

Evening walk by Notre Dame, Paris after last Shopalong


Upon touchdown in Paris and Sydney, we were ready to meet our local respondents.

We started with in-home ethnographies. In this intimate setting, people share more about their lifestyles, behaviors and motivations; we also can see how the product is actually used and stored. Interactive exercises help illuminate human behaviors that relate to the product and uncover rational and emotional benefits – the latter being the kind that can strike an indelible connection with people. Pure brand-building gold.

We then shopped along with these same folks, observing their behavior in real-time, paying close attention, and using System 1 techniques to uncover the true emotional drivers of behavior. Many may think that shopping is purely a rational act. However, the act of choosing what store to visit and what products to put in the cart is rarely just a transaction, even when it is a utility product like the one in this study.

Ruthie Feinstein and Marilyn Weiss taking in the sights at Sydney Harbor, Australia on their last day


Globetrotting has business-building benefits

Digging deep to uncover and bring to life emotional drivers of behavior is SIVO’s core competency. It also happens to be what I love to do. But all of this talk about emotions and feelings isn’t just touchy-feely stuff. The business impact is huge.


In the end, this multi-country, multi-layered investigative journey to France and Australia helped our clients discover key emotional drivers of behavior; and as they said, “was a critical input in defining their global strategy”. Happy clients, happy SIVO. Partnership indeed.

When and Why Your Business Needs Ethnography

When and Why Your Business Needs Ethnography

Here at Sivo Insights, one of our targeted solutions to your business challenges is ethnographic research. But what exactly is ethnography? And why do you need it? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Ethnography?

Ethnography is a flexible, qualitative research method that can be adapted to fit different audiences, markets, learning objectives, and environments.

Ethnographers immerse themselves in the natural environment of their research participants (home/office), and then observe their behavior. They also conduct an intimate one-on-one interview (usually lasting around 2 hours in length) with the respondent, where they learn about the life, values, beliefs, and attitudes of the consumer. When you need to develop a deep understanding of your audience by hearing their stories and truly learning about their lives, ethnographies may be the right fit for your consumer research needs.

What Are The Benefits of Ethnography?

Because research is conducted in the comfort of the consumer’s home or workspace, valuable insight is shared in a more truthful and open manner as compared to focus group research settings.

This up close and personal observation is critical because ethnographers can both witness and understand what consumers actually do on a daily basis, versus what they say they do.

There is also an opportunity to interact with family and friends of the participant, to gain a more complete picture of his/her life. Engagement on such a personal level creates the foundation for intimate and empathetic consumer learning, which could prove valuable to a brand for years to come.

In addition, videographers can capture the ethnographic interviews and key moments with research participants, such as pantry tours, product interactions, and family meals. This video footage can then be translated into a powerful highlight reel to share with your marketing, design, or sales teams; to build empathy and gain a better understanding of your consumers.

What Key Questions Can Ethnography Answer?

Ethnography is the perfect research tool to help you understand your audience, their mindset, their daily experiences, and their relationship with your product/service.

If you want to know how to frame your brand message in order to connect effectively with consumers, ethnography will help provide the insights you need to craft a clear message.

You can also recognize ways to improve your product/service, while spotting potential product innovation opportunities. Additionally, ethnography can help you answer questions about your competitor and their core audience, as well as reveal opportunities for differentiating your brand.

Ethnography provides a unique, crucial perspective on how your brand fits into the actual lives of your consumers. So if you’re ready to tackle your business challenges and discover powerful insights that will help move your business forward, ethnography might just be the missing research tool you’ve been looking for.

Contact us today to learn more about our ethnographic research services and discover what ethnography can do for you.  


Team Member Spotlight: Ralph Blessing

Ralph pictured left with his three sons, Paul, Mark and Scott.
Ralph pictured left with his three sons, Paul, Mark and Scott.


We are firm believers that our team is what sets us apart. Meet Ralph Blessing, a Sivo Insights Research Consultant with a passion for dramatically changing the way businesses view their products and services. He comes with a unique blend of client and supplier market research, Brand Management and consulting experience.

Ralph first got his start in market research over 30 years ago at S.C. Johnson Wax. During his time there, he was heavily involved with launch of Curel – their 1st therapeutic skin care products and Skintimate – the first ever women’s shave lotion. Ralph also succeeded in increasing Edge’s growth by an impressive 50 percent, by recommended they shift their spending from advertising to sampling college men, based on consumer insights that sampling drives conversion better than any other marketing mix tool.

Throughout his years at Helene Curtis, Unilever, GfK and now Sivo, Ralph has facilitated innovation and positioning of countless brands. “I really feel like I have the unique ability to ‘walk in the client’s shoes’ versus simply reporting findings,” says Ralph. Most recently, Frito Lay launched Doritos Roulette (every 5th chip is spicy, you just don’t know which one) – a concept he developed with the brand team.

In addition to helping brands grow, Ralph enjoys teaching MBAs at the Kelly School of Business where he puts his rich experience, leadership skills, and positive energy to good use.

Outside of work, Ralph is a true family man and spends much of his free time with his wife Beth and their three sons. He is also extremely passionate about giving back to the community and is involved with several charities and has participated in five medical mission trips to Honduras.

One of the charities near and dear to his heart is Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit that provides nutritionally complete meals specifically formulated for malnourished children. Ralph has personally run three successful events with the organization where he and his team packed more than 500,000 meals for children in need. This year he hopes to double that goal and make it 1 million meals.

Sivo Insights Unveils a Brand New Look!



We are thrilled to announce that Sivo Insights has recently undergone a brand refresh! It’s the same Sivo that you know and love, but a fresh new look that reflects our growth, evolution and future. In conjunction with our brand refresh, we are also pleased to announce several exciting new partnerships and team members.


New Capabilities & Partnerships

With a mission to leave no stone unturned, we are proud to partner with other talented resources in order to provide all of your research solutions under one roof, ensuring the quality and perseverance you expect from Sivo is delivered every step of the way. Our partners specialize in:



The Sivo Village is Growing

We are firm believers that it is our people that sets us apart. We’ve recently expanded our team to do even more for you under one roof, allowing our deep bench of dedicated talent to customize your research experience. Click here to meet some of the newest additions to the Sivo Village!


Inspiring Case Studies

We’re excited to release several inspiring new case studies that showcase how we help our clients move their business forward. From retail to natural and organic, we hope these case studies spark fresh ideas for your own business and inspire new possibilities. Click here to read them now!






Social Capital and The Customer Experience

Social Capital and The Customer Experience

We’ve already established that social capital plays a crucial role in your business, just like financial and human capital does. But how exactly does social capital tie into the customer experience? And how can you as a marketer, incorporate social capital into your marketing efforts?

The Relationship Between Social Capital and The Customer Experience

Customers are the priority of any business. By simply keeping them happy and satisfied with the products and/or services you are offering them, you can guarantee their loyalty, support, and recommendation.

But keeping your customers happy is not a simple task. You need to ensure that there is harmony across your business, in order to ensure a consistent customer experience. That’s where social capital comes in.

Social capital provides the quality relationships needed to ensure excellent customer experience is delivered each and every time. Not only does your social capital ensure the growth of your business, it allows you to expand your connections, in turn creating more social capital.

Here are just a few ways social capital can be integrated to improve the customer experience:

1. Use your social capital i.e.; your team, online communities, interest groups, business partners, to solve difficult problems in your business. For example, if you are stuck between using inbound marketing or outbound marketing for your next campaign, field the question to your team and online communities and use the suggestions to direct your campaign.

2. Align the voice of your business (amongst your team/employees) so that your customers can receive a uniform marketing experience regardless of which channel they are accessing your product or service from.

3. Pay attention to what your customers are saying online, engage with them, and learn about what they want from your brand. Once you’ve done this, you can create a personalized marketing approach that caters specifically to their desires. One of our goals at Sivo Insights is to provide our customers with a differentiating experience. There’s nothing appealing about treating your customers like faceless money-machines with no personality, needs, wants, or goals.

4. Use your connections to promote your content, products, and services. For example, if you are releasing a new E-book, have other influencers in your niche share pieces of content that pertain to your upcoming release, and give them an incentive to put your product in front of their audience. The incentive could be as simple as promoting their product when the time comes.

Once you understand how to harness the power of social capital and direct it towards the purpose of marketing your business and enhancing the customer experience, growth is only inevitable.

Team Member Spotlight: Austin Curtis


Here at Sivo Insights, we are proud to work with a diverse team of researchers, strategists, and creative talent that are passionate about what they do. Meet Austin Curtis, a Sivo research consultant with a passion for problem solving and utilizing creative thinking to tap into the unknown.

A biology major and once pre-med student, Austin first began his career as a scientist for General Mills. After discovering consumer research, he quickly switched focus, applying his analytical skills to develop original methodologies that uncover powerful insights. 

“I love solving problems that revolve around what people need, what makes them tick, and the behaviors that manifest when their needs are or aren’t met,” says Austin. “These problems are often extremely complex and irrational. I tend to thrive in this space, as I have an imagination that gets fueled by hearing and sharing experiences. The icing on the cake is being able to share these experiences in a story that everyone can then relate to on a deeper level.”

Austin credits his creative mindset to his mother who always encouraged him and his siblings to explore life through the lens of imagination. As a result, he has found a strong passion for creative writing and storytelling, which takes on many forms in his own life. From playing Dungeons and Dragons to creating children’s books storylines and drawings, he allows his mind to explore new spaces and experiment with avant-garde concepts.  

As a researcher, Austin’s creative ethos extends as a vehicle to inspire clients with information that will help shape a new perspective behind the unique wants and needs of their consumers. 

“If clients are truly curious about something that they have little to no knowledge about, I love taking that opportunity to trailblaze a path into the unknown for them, all the while, showcasing all of the intriguing discoveries that have been unearthed,” says Austin.

Austin’s affinity for storytelling, coupled with his creative methodologies makes him a welcomed addition to the Sivo team!

Harnessing The Power of Social Capital

Three business professionals working together

Social Capital is a phrase that has been making some headlines lately. So what is social capital and why does it matter? As it turns out, social capital is one of the most fundamental ingredients to success whether you’re an employee, a CEO of a major corporation, or a startup entrepreneur. According to Collins English Dictionary, social capital can be described as the network of social connections that exist between people, and their shared values and norms of behavior, which enable and encourage mutually advantageous social cooperation.

While we all know that financial and human capital are critical to a business’s success, social capital is equally important, if not more so. “When you’ve developed a wealth of social capital, you can obtain any other resources you might need – whether that means gaining investors, recruiting experts, or building your team with the best of the best,” says Chris Cancialosi, a contributor at Forbes.

So how does one harness the power of social capital? Let’s look at it this way: no matter how many business cards you hand out, how many events you attend, or how many books you might read to increase your area of expertise, all of these efforts are irrelevant if you don’t have a strong network of supporters. And we’re not just talking about “networking”. Social capital extends beyond the traditional ideas of networking, to something deeper and more meaningful – the building of genuine, long-lasting relationships. These types of relationships are fostered, sought out, and nurtured to the highest degree and can be used to build and maintain an established sense of trust within a social community.

Building your social capital may seem like a daunting task, but it’s far less complicated than you might think. Whether it’s offering free advice and resources to others, contributing regularly to your community, adding value via social media or simply being honest with your core team, all of these efforts go a long way in demonstrating your commitment and leadership to your social community.

Fostering strong social capital is simply imperative to any companies’ long-term success, and this is exactly how we have grown and thrived at Sivo Insights. We believe that people come first, relationships require nurturing, and at the end of the day it’s really about giving back and making genuine connections. It’s this belief that drives our team and how we deal with each of our clients on a day-to-day basis.

As long as you put in the effort, heart and commitment that it takes to build lasting relationships, your wealth of social capital can only expand. The sky is truly the limit.


At SIVO Insights, we are passionate about what we do and eager to put our collective skills to work for you.

To get the right solutions for your research needs, give us a call or send us an email. Or, just fill out the form on your right and we’ll get back to you shortly.

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