The Human Side of Research

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What comes to mind when you think of Big Data? According to many modern day marketers and researchers, Big Data is where the future of research is headed. And while intricate formulas and advanced algothrims may serve a valuable purpose in the research process, can Big Data ever really replace the human element of research?

According to a recent article in Forbes, there are still some things that Big Data will never do, “Computers, after all, are not people, much less consumers. While they can help us execute our plans, they cannot form our intent. Ironically, as marketing becomes more automated, true competitive advantage is even more inextricably tied to the human spirit.”

Is it possible for Big Data to discover valuable insights from large quantities of data and formulate helpful solutions? Absolutely. However, while Big Data may be able to answer the “what,” of your research, it can’t reveal the “why.” Without the unique human ability to keenly observe the subtle nuances of consumer behavior, quantitative research reaches its limits. We are forced to face the reality that understanding consumers on a deeper level goes far beyond mathematical calculations. It takes real human-to-human interaction to unveil those breakthrough insights that heighten brand awareness and accelerate product innovation.

If companies seek a true understanding of their consumers, utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methods creates a far more complete picture. When implemented correctly, both methods work together and help inform one another, providing a multi-dimensional view of your consumer’s true identity. As a result, marketers and researchers could then equip themselves with the knowledge and tools they need to maximize their strengths for a true competitive advantage.

Is it time you put the human element back into research? You have nothing to lose but groundbreaking insights.

Gordon Weiss Research Becomes Sivo Insights!

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What’s behind a name? In this case, the meaning behind the name Sivo Insights, is nothing short of pure serendipity. After four years of incredible growth, the name Gordon Weiss Research no longer seemed to suit the rapidly expanding organization that Marilyn Gordon Weiss had built from the ground up. With business rapidly expanding, new employees, clients and new projects, Marilyn and business partner Cindy Blackstock, wanted a name that spoke to their size and philosophy as researchers. It was time for a change.

While Marilyn was on a trip to Croatia last summer, she heard the word Sivo for the very first time. Sivo is a Croatian word meaning “not black and not white.”

“We don’t really have a word in the English language to reflect that,” said Marilyn. “And Cindy’s family immigrated to the United States from Croatia – so there was an obvious connection there.”

Something about the word Sivo struck Marilyn like a chord. Her last name Weiss meant “white” in German, and Cindy’s last name was Blackstock. Black and White, Ying and Yang. Sivo was the perfect name to symbolize the unique partnership between Marilyn and Cindy, and the incredible team they had developed over the last several years.

“Anytime you are dealing with humans it is rarely black and white,” said Marilyn. “What we specialize in is navigating those gray areas that are a little harder to decipher, but often carry the most valuable insights. The name Sivo Insights captured the essence of the work we do helping clients understand and connect with their consumers on a human level. We knew it was a perfect fit.”

Shortly after the rebranding process had begun, Marilyn and Cindy were confronted with some life-changing news. Cindy, was diagnosed with breast cancer just days after a routine mammogram. The entire team was shocked by the startling revelation, but determined to persevere against all odds.

“The experience has changed us for the better,” said Cindy. “It has given us a perspective that we didn’t have before and has proven to have many gifts along the way of insight, caring for others, and grace.”

The team at Sivo Insights has decided that they will give 3% of net profits to charities that support breast cancer research and families dealing with breast cancer.

“The launch of Sivo Insights signifies so much more to us than business growth,” said Marilyn. “We have grown not just as a company, but as a group of women who are able to unite and overcome the impossible. There couldn’t be a more perfect time to celebrate our rebranding as our business and personal lives parallel a hopeful and inspiring future.”

 

Monthly Musings with Marilyn: Sincere Solutions in a Green World

If you take a look around you’ll notice a lot of people are going “green” these days, and not just with their environmentally friendly smart cars and recycling, but with their eating habits too. Today’s consumers are more aware than ever about the food they put in their bodies and are eagerly seeking more natural, health-conscious options for their nutrition. And now they don’t have to shop at Whole Foods or the local Co-Op to get it. Take a walk through any mainstream grocery store and you’ll notice the words Organic, Anti-biotic Free, Locally Raised and All-Natural scattered on items throughout aisles. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 of 4 conventional grocery stores. Organic sales account for over 3 percent of total U.S. food sales, according to recent industry statistics.” These are not numbers to be ignored.

With increasingly stricter food guidelines in schools coupled with a growing public awareness of the rise of obesity and diabetes, many CPG companies are being forced to reevaluate some of their products and marketing strategies in order to adapt. So how do established CPG companies go about adjusting to this ever-growing natural health movement in our country? Perhaps it’s time to stop looking at this movement as a problem or a nuisance, but to embrace it as an opportunity for growth.

What if CPG companies decided to take a sincere look at the situation by spending the time and effort it takes to deeply understand their consumer’s changing eating habits?

By making a conscious effort to be a part of the solution, companies would then open the door to discover the answers to their problems. In-depth qualitative research can provide the breakthrough insights that companies need in order to adapt their products to meet the needs of their consumers. It can provide a fresh perspective on your products and brand to help you confidently shape your marketing strategy for the future. I believe John F. Kennedy said it best when he stated, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

Whether it’s a natural-food movement or any of the unforeseen trends in the future, change is inevitable. You can choose to stay in the present and hope your products will survive the waves of change that are certainly coming, or you can choose to be proactive and equip yourself with the knowledge and insights to successfully navigate the future. It takes a conscious effort to address the problems and obstacles of today and it takes integrity and courage to be a sincere part of the solution. Which path will you take?

~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner

Marketing to Millennials: A Consumer Courtship

Smart phones, iPads, Online Dating Sites, Texting & Social Media. These devices and platforms only begin to scratch the surface of the growing technology available to today’s Millennial consumers. With a constant stream of never ending information available at their fingertips, how does one go about marketing to one of the most over-marketed to generations? It turns out Millennials just want to be courted.

In a recent article by The New York Times, Millennial’s share their frustration about navigating their way through the murky waters of dating in a world enveloped by technology. Relationship experts suggest that all of this technology has hindered the process. Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of “asynchronous communication,” as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.

If Millennials are hungry for a more traditional courtship in dating, perhaps companies should consider marketing to their Millennial consumers in a similar way. Instead of throwing a dart into the middle of the Millennial landscape and hoping that it sticks, what if companies put the time and effort into understanding their consumers on a personal level, court them if you will. In the article, a young tech entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh summed it up quite nicely, “If he really wants you, he has to put in some effort.”

The relationship you have with your consumers should be no different. Just like a traditional courtship, understanding your consumer on a deeper level requires effort, strategic planning and investment. Will you do what it takes to understand your Millennial consumers? If you do, breakthrough insights and endless possibilities await.

 

Monthly Musings with Marilyn: Micro-Sourcing for Macro Insights

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you need to make a decision? It happens to all of us. Whether we’re deciding which doctor to use to receive the best care, or which toothpaste to buy at the grocery store, there never seems to be a shortage of options to choose from. With a never-ending supply of information at our fingertips, all of this “Macro-Sourcing” can become overwhelming and even tiresome when trying to make a decision. According to a recent article by Business Insider, on average Americans make 70 choices a day, so it’s easy to see why people can be indecisive, especially when making an important decision.

Sometimes, rather than going with the 4 or 5 star rating from conventional crowd-sourced wisdom, we want a closer, more personal opinion. Therefore, we use a small, reliable micro-group from within our own extended network, which can bring about an entirely different feeling and peace of mind. In a sense we are “Micro-Sourcing” for Macro Insights. We want those in-depth, experiential insights from a select group of people whom we trust, which will provide us substantial information to make educated decisions. If you think about it, this approach isn’t all that different from in-depth Qualitative Research. Rather than surveying the masses for Macro amounts of data, we analyze and observe a select group of consumers to reveal valuable, hidden insights that make a Macro impact.  If you have a clear understanding of your consumers’ needs and wants, the greater your ability to innovate, heighten brand awareness, and develop satisfied consumers. And what do satisfied consumers do? They will advocate or Micro-Source your brand or product for you.

When it comes to those high-stakes decisions in life; whether it’s picking the right car or the best doctor, Micro-Sourcing for Macro Insights is a no-brainer. Why should it be any different when it comes to understanding your consumer? If you equip yourself with the best possible knowledge when the stakes are high, your insights will be anything but Micro.

~ Marilyn Weiss

President & Founding Partner

 

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

 

 

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