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.

Sivo Team Member Spotlight: Katrina McGhee


Here at Sivo Insights, we are passionate about learning. Whether it’s studying the latest market research trends or investigating the minds of consumers, our thirst for knowledge is endless. We thrive working with a tightknit team of intelligent, creative individuals who share our passion for learning.

Meet Katrina McGhee, a Sivo Insights team member who epitomizes a zest for learning. A former actuary, Katrina left the field after discovering her interest in marketing and consumer insights. After receiving her MBA, she was quickly recruited by General Mills to work in Consumer Insights. Highly intelligent and intuitive, Katrina has joined the Sivo Insights team as a Research Manager, where she is able to put her unique skillset and experience into action.

“I love to uncover hidden truths and beliefs people have, and then use my intuition to stitch together seemingly disparate pieces of information,” she says. “It can be a really rewarding experience.”

P1010063Her thirst for learning doesn’t stop with market research. Katrina is a seasoned world traveler with a keen interest for understanding and immersing herself in other cultures. From attending yoga intensives in Bali to participating in food tours across 8 different countries, she has absorbed extensive knowledge from a myriad of cultures and their varying perspectives on life and work.

“Traveling allows you a unique change in perspective and can make the impossible seem possible when you realize there are so many different ways to live in the world,” she says.

Putting her investigative skills to work, she recently discovered how to make points and frequent flyer miles work to her advantage, flying first class from the US to Asia for less than $100. (You may want to pick her brain before planning your next trip.)

Possessing equal parts left brain and right brain, Katrina offers valuable insight and expertise to each one of our clients. And with such a deep passion for learning and bridging perspectives into one cohesive whole, we are beyond thrilled to welcome her to the Sivo village.



Sivo Team Member Spotlight: Susan Bernstein

At Sivo Insights, we believe that everyone has a unique story to tell. And while we pride ourselves on helping our clients discover and share their own personal story, we are proud to tell the stories of the inspiring individuals that makeup our incredible Sivo team.

yRuavmr1atcYA45Jt0Qa3IZtE_kyHaykJ2wIMGbmouIMeet Susan Bernstein, Sivo research consultant, entrepreneur and creative mind. Susan has a wealth of experience developing and implementing strategies to help clients improve competitive differentiation. As a management consultant with McKinsey & Co., and a senior strategist with the global brand strategy firm Tait Subler,’ her experience spans a wide range of Fortune 500 companies and non-profits including: Nike, Target, Best Buy, Liz Claiborne, The MN Historical Society and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

For Susan, what she loves most about working with the Sivo Insights team is the opportunity to collaborate with a group of people who share an equal passion for innovation and storytelling. “I like that we approach every project with a beginner’s mind,” she says. “We try to solve the client’s problem in a very fresh and highly skilled way. It’s about coming together with a group of really smart people and figuring out how we can design an approach to get to what the client needs.” With an intelligent mind and a penchant for highly developed strategy, Susan has an unparalleled ability to put together the pieces of a puzzle and build a masterpiece of a story for our clients.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 10.57.43 AMAnd her affinity for storytelling doesn’t stop there. With a hankering to partake in a creative endeavor, Susan and a friend launched the film company, Seven and Sixty Productions, in 2010. Their goal? To explore and share the unique stories all around us. Their first video, Why we’re here: Twin Cities, received a passionate response and caused the film to go viral. Since then, Susan has embraced this creative outlet as a major staple in her life, and Seven and Sixty has produced additional films for a wide range of clients including local band, Communist Daughter.

Beyond film, Susan is also one of the founders and the managing director of The Truman Group – an organization that provides psychological counseling to individuals around the world. Susan and co-founder, Dr. Sean Truman, decided to found the Truman Group after recognizing the difficulty many English-speaking expats encounter in finding quality health care services while living and working overseas. Today Susan and the team currently fulfill a global demand for counseling that allows people a safe place to tell their own pressing stories.

It’s clear that a passion for crafting beautiful stories is a common thread that runs through Susan’s life, both personally and professionally. A creative and a strategist, she melds her unique skills to make an enormous difference for each and every one of our clients. To learn more about Susan’s work with Seven and Sixty Productions and The Truman Group, click the links below to learn more.

Defining Happiness


We all what to find happiness in our lives – but what is it exactly, and how do we define it? The answer may be more complex than you think. According to a recent article by Harvard Business Review, the cultural variations of “happiness” are considerable. Not only do our views on happiness vary culturally, they actually change over time.

The American ideal of the pursuit of happiness, is despite popular belief, a relatively new concept. Until the 18th century, most of society’s conduct was, somewhat dreary and downtrodden. Many early Protestants firmly believed that we should, “allow no joy or pleasure, but a kind of melancholic demeanor and austerity,” says Peter N. Stearns of Harvard Business Review.

It wasn’t until the age of Enlightenment when attitudes changed and spirits were in a sense, lifted. Finally was it not only acceptable to pursue a life of happiness and fulfillment, but it was considered improper not to do so. So what took place to produce such a change? Historians have suggested an intellectual shift towards higher valuation and improved living conditions (especially for the middle and upper class) set the wheels in motion.

However, this was just the first wave of the movement. Happiness also continued to transform in the workplace. More individuals started working from outside the home, bringing increased annual wages and became overall more social. In some respects it was argued, this new middle-class had no reason not to be happy due to these circumstances.

From the 1920’s onwards, the final surge took place. Transitioning out of a manufacturing to a white-collared economy, consumerism became predominant, and advertisers began to understand that associating products with happiness spurred sales.

This concept propagated when Walt Disney came into our lives simply to “make people happy”. McDonald’s decided it wanted to give us “Happy meals”, turning a year older was celebrated with “Happy Birthday”, and an advertising executive managed to make popular a yellow smiley face, even in the wake of the Kennedy Assassination.

“We may not wish to alter the happiness culture that modern history has bequeathed us; its considerable problems may be outweighed by the pleasure of having cheerful artifacts and smiling faces around us,” says Stearns. “But we can at least consider the possibility of modification. In our happiness culture there might yet be, after a couple of centuries of acceleration, room for improvement.”

What does this mean for marketers? While our definition of happiness is sure to shift and shape in the years to come, it’s important to identify what happiness means to your consumers today. What may be described as happiness for a millennial, may mean something very different for a baby boomer. Ask yourself, what do they value, what makes them laugh, smile or relax? By identifying those subtle nuances and niceties that make your consumers feel happy, you can dramatically transform the way your customers view and interact with your brand.

Do you know what makes your consumers happy? If not, it might be time to find out.

Marketing to Food Tribes

Food on forks


As Americans we have become a nation with sharp divisions, opinions, and preferences. And we’re not talking about politics or religion. We’re talking about food. According to an article in the Nutrition Business Journal, almost half of adults say that they identify with at least one “food tribe.” Food restrictions, food allergies, or avoiding certain ingredients dictate specific diets for 44% of the population, according to a 2014 Packaged Facts report.

Whatever the reason behind these allegiances to specific diets (whether it’s weight loss, health concerns, or something else), there’s no doubt “they are having a broad impact on the way people eat, and across the continuum of manufacturers, retailers and food service operators, they are all being forced to respond,” says Amanda Topper, a food analyst for market research firm Mintel.

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to be educated on consumers’ unique food preferences so that we are able to stay ahead of consumer demand and then anticipate and meet their needs. Let’s take a deeper look at the food tribes driving the purchase decisions of today’s consumers:

Gluten-free – Gluten-free has been a popular buzz word during the last few years, as sales of gluten-free foods climbed to 63% from 2012 to 2014. Opportunities for future marketing in this arena, however, may be dwindling. Food and beverage industry analyst Darren Seifer of the NPD Group says gluten-free product sales peaked at the end of 2013. He advises companies to use caution and carefully consider cost before jumping into the gluten-free world.

Paleo – According to research by Hamilton Stapell, a history professor with the State University of New York, New Paltz, between 1 and 3 million people belong to this food tribe. The Paleo diet places an emphasis on consuming meat and other high fat foods. As government and health organizations continue to publish anti-meat messages, the cause of the Paleo diet suffers. Marketers, though, have an opportunity with this tribe if they can offer meat and whole foods in convenient packages.

Vegan – Just 4 percent of U.S. consumers are strictly vegetarian, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group, and about half of those are vegan. While a much smaller segment compared to others food tribes, Vegans are extremely passionate about their food preferences. Mintel’s Topper says that if companies do want to target the vegetarian/vegan segment, they should aim for millennials. Nine percent of that group is vegetarian.

Sugar-free – Sugar is now considered the “demon” when it comes to ingredients we try to avoid. Sixty-five percent of consumers look for products that contain “no added sugar,” according to market research firm Eurominitor. The real opportunity with this tribe is to develop more products made with natural, zero-calorie sweeteners such as monk fruit, stevia, and xylitol.

The Biohackers – This tribe uses technology to find out exactly what’s going on in their bodies and then tailor their diets to meet those needs. One may test for anemia, for example, and then choose food and supplements best suited to address their concern. This tribe is just getting started, and marketers should keep a close eye on emerging technologies to take their cues for opportunities within the niche.

Where is the greatest area of opportunity for your company? Investing in qualitative research is one of the best ways to determine the unique needs of your consumers. Our proven research methods such as deep dive in-home ethnographies or online ethnographies, will provide the insights you need to understand today’s food tribes, tomorrow’s trends, and what your consumers need right now.


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?




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

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