Team Member Spotlight: Martha Gordon Empowers Girls Through the Non-profit organization Girls on the Run


Martha Gordon Blog Image

At Sivo Insights, we believe in fostering the limitless potential of women worldwide. We want to inspire women to become their best selves, realizing their passions and achieving any goals they wish to accomplish. Teaching this empowerment to girls at a young age is critical. Sivo team member Martha Gordon is a key player in this effort, serving as the lead coach for a local Girls on the Run chapter.

Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization that exists to promote self-confidence and teach life skills to young women. Coaches teach three essential components through the running program: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork, and understanding our connection with the world at large. Through 24 running lessons and various games, girls acquire the important social, psychological, and physical skills necessary to prepare them for a successful and meaningful future.

With a ten-year old daughter and a twelve-year old son, Martha understands the crucial need to develop these life skills at a young age. A runner herself, Girls on the Run provided her with an avenue to give back to the community through sharing her passions for fitness. For several years she has coached the Girls on the Run team at a local elementary school in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the rewards have been enormous.

“The girls learn things they wouldn’t learn in school,” says Martha. “It’s about giving them empowerment and encouragement and giving them a safe place to share what’s on their heart, whether it’s friendship, body image or other things they are struggling with. It’s a very critical time for these girls.”

Martha has cherished the opportunity to help these young girls in their process of empowerment and self-discovery. Emphasizing the values of persistence and perseverance, she has succeeded in challenging the girls to establish goals and see them to fruition. For team members who struggle to feel engaged and enthusiastic about activities, Martha works with them on an individual basis, incentivizing them to realize their dreams. At the end of each season, her team completes a 5k running event, providing them with palpable sense of accomplishment.

In addition to her role as a coach, working for Sivo gives Martha the opportunity to contribute to a team with shared philanthropic passions. “It’s more than just a job. It’s the about greater picture,” she says of the company. “Not only do they value a work-life balance, they also strive to make a difference by donating a portion of their funds to numerous charities, including annual support for various cancer foundations, and are active participants in the non profit organization Girls on the Run.”

As part of our ongoing commitment to support these efforts, Sivo Insights made a donation last fall to Girls on the Run in honor of our clients.

Visit the Girls on the Run website to learn more about how you can help empower young women today.



The Age of Happiness

Senior Couple --- Image by © Brooke Fasani Auchincloss/Corbis

Want to experience true happiness? It might be a while. According to recent research, the people that rate themselves the most “happy” of all age groups are those from ages 82 to 85. So what makes this particular bunch so elated in this final stage of life? You might be surprised.

A physical change that occurs in the brain is one of many contributing factors. However, decreased levels of worry, anxiety, and stress also play a significant role. In general, elderly people are far more relaxed than younger adults. With no need to plan for the future, they are able to enjoy the simple, everyday moments without worry clouding their view. While some scientists argue that this change in demeanor is simply part of the human evolutionary process, others disagree.

“I’d rather think that elder happiness is an accomplishment, not a condition, that people get better at living through effort, by mastering specific skills,” says New York Times Op-Ed columnist, David Brooks.

According to Brooks, one of the contributing factors to this increase in happiness is bifocalism – the ability to see the same situation from multiple perspectives. A lifetime of experience allows and individual the ability to look at tough situations from different angles, without becoming emotionally overwhelmed.

Another contributing factor is the ability to balance tensions. Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe, authors of “Practical Wisdom,” explain that, “Performing many social roles means balancing competing demands.” For example, if you are a parent you must be nurturing yet authoritative with your children. When entering a new dating relationship you want to seem interested but not too aggressive. As humans, we are constantly being pulled in multiple directions to fit into the designated social roles in our lives. Only with time, experience, and age, are we able to truly understand how to balance these ongoing tensions with ease.

Last but certainly not least, one of the most significant factors is an increased feeling of empathy. Elderly people have the unique ability to sympathize with others on a deeper level. Through a lifetime of varied experiences, they empathize with the ups and downs that life presents, and have a much stronger intuition for their potential outcomes.

As marketers, it’s time we gave the elderly generation more of our attention – to learn from their successes and failures, and master the life skills that shape us for the better both personally and professionally. Whether you desire to increase your happiness, become a better marketer, or simply a better person, taking a few notes from the happiest people in the world isn’t a bad idea.




Millennials – Adapting to The New Consumer Model


So much of our marketing culture has been based around the psychology of the Baby Boomers, a generation who valued security as they graduated into the consumer market. Today, the Millennial generation is setting up a whole new consumer model and companies that want to succeed in the marketplace must be prepared to adapt.

“While baby boomers, not surprisingly, outspend Millennials by a wide margin, Millennials already represent $1.3 trillion in consumer spending,” says Dionne Searcey, chief economist for Mesirow Financial, in a recent New York Times article addressing the matter.

Witnessing the financial slump that their parents encountered, the one that sent them off to higher education and left them with loads of student loan debt – the Millennials have redefined happiness and purpose outside the realm of home mortgages and marriage certificates. And with so many choices arising on a daily basis, the urgency to make major life decisions in their mid-twenties simply does not exist. Instead, the Millennial Generation responds to a market that celebrates independent productivity.

A focus on sustainability, advanced technology, and holistic quality mean more to the Millennial Generation than a king-size mattress and white-picket fence.

With a money-conscious mindset, many young adults seek deals and discounts for everyday purchases. However, they will splurge on higher-priced items at stores like Whole Foods or make occasional impulse purchases online if it’s an item they really like.

“While baby boomers have long exhibited consistent brand loyalty, 20-somethings “trade up and trade down,” said Jeff Fromm, who runs FutureCast, a Millennial trends consulting company, and wrote a book about marketing to Millennials.

In essence, with a lack of brand loyalty and unpredictable spending behavior, Millennials are flipping the typical consumer model upside down. While marketing to a generation that does not like to be marketed to, may present itself as an unachievable fete, it is possible. By investing in research to gain a deeper understanding of your Millennial consumer, marketers can position themselves to succeed in this challenging yet exciting, new consumer model. Are you ready to adapt?








Emotional Intelligence = Success and Happiness

Emotional Intelligence

For years it has been believed that the soul source of an individuals success was directly linked to their IQ. While having a high IQ is extremely beneficial, new research points to emotional intelligence as the “it” factor that separates top achievers from the rest of the pack. So what exactly is this intangible aptitude, and how important is it to our personal and professional success?

Emotional Intelligence can be described as our ability to perceive the motives that drive human behavior, both with others, and ourselves. It’s how we navigate social complexities, manage our behavior, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results. According to a recent study by TalentSmart, emotional intelligence was found to be the highest predictor of workplace success, when tested along with thirty-three other skills. Fifty-eight percent of our professional success stems from our proficiency in understanding ourselves and navigating social situations, and ninety percent of the top workplace performers possess high levels of emotional intelligence. What does this mean in terms of money? People with a high EQ make on average $29,000 more a year than those with lesser self-awareness and empathic ability.

What about our personal life? Having high levels of emotional intelligence equips us to better manage feelings like insecurity, anger or fear, and respond to these feelings in an effective, thoughtful manner. According to a recent article by author Steven Tulman, “It is the key to being an effective leader and a critical factor to the quality of both our personal and business relationships. As such, emotional intelligence directly affects our quality of life, level of happiness and degree of self-satisfaction.”

As qualitative researchers, having a high EQ is critical to our success. It requires an emotional, empathetic experience to extract those breakthrough insights that are often easy to overlook. We approach each project with an open mind, tapping into our own emotional intelligence with the goal of understanding each consumer on a deeper level. What do they desire? What motivates them? What are their hesitations?

Developing a High EQ takes time, hard work and the willingness to improve, but the good news is with such malleable brains, we can increase our emotional intelligence by consistently repeating certain positive behaviors. Eventually, our brains build new pathways that make these practices second nature, allowing us to respond to our surroundings and understand ourselves in a positive and success-driven manner.

At the end of the day, the “it” factor that will take your career and relationships to the next level, is available to anyone who wants it. Whether your goal is to succeed at work, deepen meaningful relationships or simply feel happier, anyone can increase their EQ with a little effort and determination to succeed. Are you ready to break away from the pack?



Cindy Blackstock Takes on Big Sur

Cindy ImagePerseverance should be Cindy Blackstock’s middle name. As our managing partner here at Sivo Insights, she is the backbone of our success. As a triathlete, she has racked up countless victories, placing third in Ironman Wisconsin and qualifying for the world championship – a challenge designed for the world’s top endurance athletes. As a breast cancer survivor, she has won the battle against the disease and has shared her testimony with countless women, encouraging them to remain strong through tribulations. She is one of our personal heroes, because she determines what she is going to make of her life. She doesn’t let life’s circumstances determine it for her.

Just a few weeks ago, Cindy awed us yet again, tackling a full marathon along the scenic Pacific Coast. During a triathlon last summer, she was struck by a car and fractured her tibia, confining her to crutches for several months. Between her breast cancer and the accident, she felt her spirits sink – one terrible event after the next seemed to want to keep her down. But with the perseverant spirit we know and love her for, Cindy refused to accept the setbacks. She pressed on, engaging in physical therapy to rehabilitate her body back to its triathlon shape.

Her loving husband Frank decided to buy her an entry into the April 26th Big Sur Marathon through the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance to end-stage cancer patients. The race was exactly what Cindy needed. It reinvigorated her sense of purpose, and as soon as she was permitted, she began training in full force. Watching her fight through obstacles to redeem her health and reclaim her incredible endurance has encouraged all of us to be our best selves.

Cindy completed the 26.2-mile race as a part of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation’s Team For Life. Out of over 4,000 runners, Cindy finished 222nd, and sixth in her age group for the women’s race. Her superhuman spirit and astonishing resilience continues to inspire each one of us every day. She is truly our greatest champion.

Cindy and the rest of her team raised funds for the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, whose mission is to provide financial aid for end stage cancer patients to participate in FDA approved clinical trials. The non-profit also assists patients in assessing their clinical trial options, and provides numerous outreach services and community education. Here at Sivo Insights, we continue to donate 3% of all profits to Breast Cancer Research & Screening. Cindy will be running as a part of the Lazarex team again in the New York City marathon this coming November. There is no “cannot” in Cindy’s dictionary – she reminds us that anything is possible, so long as you are determined to make it happen.


The Key To Happiness

Hand Unlocking Old Fashioned Lock

Happiness. Bookstores dedicate entire sections to its discovery. Documentaries have been made in a search for its key ingredients. In 2014 Singer/Producer Pharrell Williams, struck the happiness jackpot with his wildly successful song “happy”, scoring No 1s in more than 30 countries. So why are we so fascinated with happiness? Because no matter how much our society progresses with both materialism and technology, we all strive to understand and attain the building blocks of happiness for our lives.

So what makes us happy? According to a recent article, 7 Essential Habits of Happier People,” by Jeff Haden, “50% of your “happiness set-point” is determined by personality traits that are largely hereditary. In short, half of how happy you feel is basically outside your control.” However, there’s still hope for achieving happiness, even if you’ve been genetically pre-disposed with a gloomy demeanor, “The other 50% of your level of happiness is totally within your control including relationships, health, career, etc.”

Haden believes there are several components that contribute to living a happier, more fulfilling life. Two of those key components are gratitude and giving. When we express thankfulness for that which we have, we abandon a mentality of what we lack, and realize the truly abundant nature of our lives. Gratitude begs an attitude of generosity; by taking note of what we have, we are more apt to provide support to others.

Actively pursuing individual goals, doing what you excel at as frequently as possible, and dictating your own desires, are three more ways in which you can give your happiness level a boost. When we let our dreams stir in the latent sector of our mind, they remain merely that – unfulfilled fantasies. But when we create plans of action to see our dreams through to fruition, our sense of fulfillment skyrockets. Similarly, devoting time to the areas in which we excel brings us a definite sense of contentment, whether it is a hobby or an aspect of our careers. Though other people will always try to encourage the path you take, remembering that you are the ultimate commander of your reality will exponentially increase your happiness. Applying these practices on a daily basis can have a significant effect on your life, both personally and professionally.

At Sivo Insights we believe that happiness is key when it comes to success. If we didn’t feel engulfed in passion for our work and our clients, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We feel extreme gratitude to do what we love and choose to work with individuals who are equally passionate about what they do. By creating an environment that encourages creativity, excitement, the ability to utilize our talents and pursue our dreams – a culture of happiness is formed. And a happy culture produces happy clients.

There’s no magical equation for achieving happiness. Do more of what makes you happy, be thankful for what you have, and choose to pursue your dreams. At the end of the day happiness is a choice – and only you can make it.



Monthly Musings with Marilyn: The Slash Generation


According to a recent New York Times Article “The Lives Of Millennial Career Jugglers,” today’s youth switches back and forth between different modalities of fulfillment. This new phenomenon has developed a self-proclaimed “slash” mentality; Doctor/Writer, Scientist/Baker, Researcher/Artist, etc. “While one job usually pays the bills, another gig provides a more creative outlet,” points out the author, Sheila Mirakar. “More than hobbyists, these career jugglers consider their cocktail of roles essential to their well-being and dismiss the notion that they ought to focus on one thing for the rest of their adult lives as boring and antiquated.”

Every generation has a unique driving force that shapes their beliefs about life, work and society. The “Greatest Generation” grew of age during war and depression, which generated the value of profound labor to provide for their families. The Baby Boomers, blessed with their parents’ work ethic and a slew of opportunity, carved the pathway to white-collar careers and honored the value of an esteemed education and the pursuit of the American Dream. Though often targeted as a generation penetrated by laziness and indirection, the tides of interest for Millennials have simply shifted.

Rather than “keeping up with the Joneses,” Millennials believe that career juggling necessitates a more minimalistic lifestyle, at least until their creative entrepreneurship takes off, becoming another burgeoning start-up born out of the generation’s creative and technologically-advanced culture. Thus, they invest their resources into products and services that are disposable, community-oriented, and environmentally conscious.

Since permanence is not a priority to this young generation, companies must adjust their marketing efforts to suit the needs of a populace obsessed with the ability to be malleable in their choices.

Those that make it a priority to “keep up with the Millennials,” will have the opportunity to create brand advocates for life. The choice is up to you – adapt, invest, and understand, or risk the chance of getting slashed from the Millennial equation.


~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner


Sivo Team Member Spotlight: Julie Monson


Here at Sivo Insights we subscribe to the mentality that individuals make all the difference. One Sivo team member in particular is making strides to raise awareness about poverty and provide hope in one of the poorest countries in the world.

In 2013, research consultant Julie Monson, and her teenage daughter decided to go on a mission trip to Haiti with the non-profit organization Healing Haiti. During their trip they visited the largest, poorest slum in the western hemisphere, Cite Soleil. Most of those living in Cite Soleil are unemployed and face extreme hunger, gang violence, and high risk of AIDS/HIV.

“There are more than 300,000 people living in3 square miles,” says Monson. “It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The level of poverty, malnutrition and poor living conditions is unspeakable.”

Monson and the Healing Haiti team traveled deep into the heart of Cite Soleil to provide clean water, food, and hope to individuals and families. Following her mission trip, Monson’s heart began to stir with a desire to continue her outreach in Haiti.

After doing some research she soon became involved with Haitian Initiative, a collaboration of partners working together to bring sustainable programs to Haiti using soccer as a catalyst to combat the cycle of poverty. Boys who stay in school and maintain good grades have the opportunity to participate in the soccer program and receive one meal a day provided by Feed My Starving Children. Staying in school is critical to providing the only meal these children get in a day, and avoiding the predominant culture of gang violence in Cite Soleil. The chance to play soccer provides the catalyst to make good choices and stay in school.

5 w  medals-2For the last two summers, Monson and her family have hosted two boys from the Haitian Initiative soccer program to stay with them in their home for one month.

“The experience was simply life changing. They have such a different life experience than we do,” says Monson. “For them, poverty is not just about lacking financial resources, but the constant presence of hopelessness and spiritual poverty, thinking that their life will never be better.”

For Monson and her family it’s all about creating a real, personal connection and letting these boys know that there is hope. While her experience with Haiti began as a short mission trip, it’s become something much bigger.

“It has become personal for me. There was no way I couldn’t do it again,” says Monson.

In addition to hosting two boys for one month each summer, Monson and her family have also committed to sponsoring the education for three boys and maintaining long-term personal relationships.

While the magnitude of poverty and hunger can seem overwhelming, Monson believes that by helping just one individual, you can make all the difference in the world.

“At the end of the day it’s all about personal relationships and love,” says Monson. “By helping just one person feel loved, you give them hope for a brighter future and a chance at happiness. You have to address the poverty of spirit, not just financial poverty.”

To find out how you can get involved and make a difference in Haiti, visit the links below for more information.


Healing Haiti

Haitian Initiative 





Monthly Musings with Marilyn: Limiting work-related messaging during off-hours is both humane and efficient


With increasing modes of technology and growing demands in the corporate workplace, our society has failed to contain business-related matters to workdays. Whether it’s sneaking email responses under the dinner table, or texting co-workers right before you go to bed, today’s work climate has produced an inordinate amount of pressure to be “on-call”.

As a busy mom and the owner of a successful market research firm, I too am guilty of contributing to this growing epidemic. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, workers spend more than a quarter of their workweek sifting through emails. Another recent survey revealed that 28% check work email “routinely,” peeking at the phone under the table, and half check it before they get out of bed in the morning.

Though it may seem impossible to limit workplace email during off-hours, its importance has already taken root in several other countries. German companies Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom for example, have enacted policies limiting work-related emails for employees at night and on weekends. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the Toronto office of Edelman, a global public relations firm, created the “7-to-7” rule where employees are strongly discouraged from emailing one another before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m.

So how can workers in the United States experience this sort of digital freedom? The change must begin at the top. When a boss regularly sends “high-priority” emails late at night, it indicates a lack of concern for a work-life balance. Limiting these types of off-hours communications is both humane and efficient.

Encouraging employees to experience a healthy work-life balance not only promotes mental health outside of the office – it also promotes a sense of confidence in the workplace. When we have time to decompress, we feel more at ease to make choices and focus on the task at hand. Employees are also more inclined to start using phone calls and face-to-face conversations to resolve issues quickly, rather than relying on email alone.

While the idea of eliminating all off-hours email is a commendable goal, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Whether it’s a company crisis or a high priority deadline, late night communication will occur from time to time. But by leading organizations from the mindset of balance and sanity first, we can create a workplace environment of harmony and success.

So put the phone down, walk away from the computer, and remember it’s not only okay to disconnect; it’s absolutely necessary.



Monthly Musings with Marilyn: Generation Nice

Generation Nice Blog Image

More often than not, the millennial generation has been portrayed in a less than flattering light. Commonly described as narcissists, unreliable, self absorbed and lackadaisical, this growing cohort lives under a constant microscope of criticism and speculation from the greater world. But perhaps we’ve been getting it all wrong? Currently estimated to number at least 80 million in the United States alone, millennials have become a dominant demographic force, leaving marketers wondering what’s next, and how to connect with this highly influential generation. It’s time to take a deeper look at who they really are.

Having endured the 9/11 terrorist attacks, The Great Recession and one of the worst economic landscapes in decades, millennials grasp the uncertainties of life and wealth. While one might assume that a generation that has lived through such perilous times, would walk away feeling pessimistic and discouraged, the very opposite is true. Instead, “millennials are the nation’s most dogged optimists,” stated a 2010 Pew Research report on millennials subtitled, “Confident. Connected. Open to Change.”

Millennials also have a very different outlook on lifestyle and spending. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Even in the realm of fashion, many are indifferent to prestige brands and lavish ad campaigns, preferring to buy online or get “disposable” clothing at H & M or Zara, which boasts that its organically farmed cottons are “completely free of pesticides, chemicals and bleach.”

The millennial generation places a high value on sense of community and practicality over name brands and “keeping up with the Joneses.” Instead, there is a much greater emphasis spent focusing on the things that “truly matter” including, happiness, quality of life, health, and contributing to the greater good.

At Sivo Insights many of our own clients are millennials, and those who aren’t recognize the importance of learning more about them. As a company we also acknowledge the significance of the millennial mindset and incorporate many of the same values and beliefs into our own Sivo culture. For example, we donate 3% of all profits to Breast Cancer Research & Screening – so when clients work with us they know they have also participated in contributing to a higher cause.

With a presence exceeding that of the Baby Boomers, this young and hopeful generation will have more influence in the marketplace than ever before as they enter the prime of their adult lives. So what does this mean for marketers? It’s time to invest in your millennial audience now. Know who they are, understand what they want, and arm yourself with the insights you need to adapt with them in the future. It’s time to break the millennial stereotypes and get acquainted with Generation Nice.

~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner




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