It’s Patio Season!

In Minnesota, there are 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and patio season. As soon as the snow melts (May 5th this year), we clamber outside with alacrity to make the most of those few months where you don’t need to keep a snow shovel in your trunk.

Ingredients for an ideal patio happy hour:

  1. Delicious eats and a tantalizing drink list
  2. Not being subject to clouds of exhaust permeating the atmosphere or saturating the libations.
  3. Some like it hot. Others have skin fair as the Minnesota snow. Sun and shade dual options foster a comfortable environment for all.
  4. Big tables because hey, we like each other (and want to sit with each other).
  5. Good people enjoying the company of one another

As a team, we enjoy a fun patio happy hour as much as anyone. Situated in the NE neighborhoods of Minneapolis, the toughest question we face on this issue is which awesome spot should we visit this time? While you really can’t go wrong (especially if you incorporate our 5 ideal ingredients), here are a few REAL recommendations:

Bauhaus: Rain or shine, this covered gem is conveniently located across the parking lot from our office. Play some bags, drink some beer, eat from a food truck, and take in a scenic freight train or two.

Eli’s: Tucked back off Hennepin, Eli’s is a favorite lunch spot due to its varied menu and sunny tables. Always check the specials list.

Able: Can you be a seedhouse and a brewery and have an amazing patio all at the same time? Only if you are Able.

Stanley’s: One of the spots most capable of seating our growing team outside, Stanley’s offers a variety of eats and drinks that keeps everyone happy.

Masu: A popular spot on fielding Fridays when the office crew is smaller, Masu’s fresh Japanese fare is the perfect food to feast on when the forecast is fiery.

Fair State: Tucked behind the brewery, the Fair State patio is a hidden respite from Central Avenue that provides the sun and shade we’re always seeking. We dare you to try the Roselle and not become a sour convert.

Tattersall: Words cannot describe the cocktails available at Tattersall. They have a nice patio outside for the warmer weather, but we almost prefer the cocktail room inside with its cozy club chairs. It’s worth it to visit, rain or shine!

Small Business

In a land where bigger is generally equated to better, we at REAL Insight dare to take an alternate perspective: Innovative is better. Flexible is better. Faster is better. Affordable is better. Personable is better. These qualities are all part of the value-added offerings our small business brings to the table.

With 12 full time employees and an extended team of about 20, we embrace our small business status, but also challenge the title—we are small in size, but not in capability or impact. We are undaunted by large projects or tight timelines. Customization isn’t a dirty word; we prefer it. We do not shy away from hard-to-find consumers or needed nuance. We enjoy keeping current on innovation, both human and technological, and have a repertoire of tools, ideas, and methodologies that stand up to any task. We are ready to pivot as projects develop and inevitable obstacles crop up. We also enjoy being able to fit the whole team at a restaurant table to celebrate birthdays, sunny days, or happy hour 🙂

This week we celebrate all those businesses that are fast and flexible, innovative and imaginative, creative and capable, and also have small employee numbers. Happy Small Business Week!

Spring into Action

Spring in Minneapolis is quite the spectacle. Sounds such as birds chirping and creeks babbling return to the daily soundtrack; Target Field begins its thaw from the cold as opening day approaches; a collective sigh is heard as winter jackets are packed back in closets and snow boots are tucked away in favor of galoshes or, for some brave souls, sandals. And with spring, comes the green.

Here at REAL Insight, we have a particular preference for the color green and find spring to be a wonderful time to celebrate those warm feelings. With Earth Day on its way, our internal green team teamed up with our volunteer team to celebrate the planet and show our support for the continued “greening” of our community and world.

Earth Day is a great reason to think both globally and locally: what can be done in our neighborhoods, and how can we fit in with the bigger picture? To address both of these perspectives, we decided on supporting both a global initiative and a local need:


One Tree Planted is a non-profit organization focused on planting trees throughout the world. For every dollar donated, they plant a tree in one of their six global locations, selected based on the needs for reforestation in those regions. We decided to start a collection for One Tree Planted in the office and offered to have our volunteer/green team match all donations, which resulted in REAL Insight planting 100 trees throughout the world!

Locally, we decided to make a donation to support Arbor Day efforts and plant trees here in our fair city through giving to People for Parks, a local non-profit with the goal of enhancing and promoting Minneapolis parks. Giving back to the city that gives us so much is an important goal of out volunteer team and green team.

April showers bring May flowers, and nurture trees throughout our backyards and the world. Happy Earth Day and Happy Arbor Day from all of us!

-Mary Dolan O’Brien, Project Coordinator

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Richard Simmons and the Power of Empathy

Historically, the name Richard Simmons did little more for me than conjure up Day-Glo tinted memories of spandex and pep. While familiar with him and his fitness empire, he was not a person on which I spent much time dwelling in the past decade.

That was until recently, when I joined thousands of others in being utterly captivated by “Missing Richard Simmons,” a podcast detailing the abrupt departure of Mr. Simmons from the public eye, and one man’s quest to find out why.

15simmons1-master768In the past, when Richard Simmons would come up in conversation or the news, my two most prominent thoughts were:

  1. His success must be tied to the fanfare surrounding him and his unique way of carrying himself.
  2. Who would choose him as a fitness guide when there are other, more credible-seeming guides out there and available?

What I failed to see is something that the podcast has illustrated for all those listening: his success (which is much larger than I was aware of) lies in his authentic empathy for people. He saw people through non-judgmental and caring eyes and wanted to hear their stories and help them.


It actually reminded me a lot of my dad, the founder of our company, and what made him so effective at the 75,000+ intercept interviews he did over his career. He, like Richard, had a way of immediately instilling a feeling of worth and importance in anyone with whom he interacted. This authentic and believable foundation encouraged and inspired conversations, and continues to this day. Respect and empathy are rooted in the DNA of REAL Insight, and grow with us as we continue to expand and innovate.

Brands can be authentically empathetic too, but it requires brand teams to be open, vulnerable, and receptive to interactions in environments that may seem uncomfortable or places that may not be major cities. It’s not enough to just do research. Teams need to truly see and listen to people, which is harder to do when those people are different from themselves.  This is where true empathy needs to be formed, and this is where we can help.

We have developed a solution that makes this process much easier: a REAL Intuition Journey. This is a multi-touchpoint process that will help your team transition from hearing to listening and from looking to seeing. Empathy has power; let us help you harness it.

-Luke Cahill

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Is the Road to Success Paved with Social Activism?

A few months ago, we looked at an article that analyzed the autonomous relationship that Unilever had with its acquisition, Ben & Jerry’s. The team at the ice cream giant was adamant that they continue with their longtime commitment to social causes and hoped to influence their corporate overlord in the future. And it seems that it may have worked.

Does Selling Out Mean What it Used To?

At a market research conference, Unilver CEO Paul Polman stressed the importance to social issues and stated that, “by prioritizing social issues, business success will follow.” With the increasing presence of Millennials in the workplace, companies are starting to take note of the values of these employees. This burgeoning workforce wants to work for an employer they can believe in; they want a workplace that values social activism and volunteering; they want to work for a  company that gives back to the consumers it profits from. It’s a stark contrast to the traditional view of profiting for the shareholder who in turn might return their profits to the greater community.

So what, then, will be the future decisions of employers? And, if they decide to prioritize social responsibility as company value, how do they determine and come to agree on a shared social mission? At REAL Insight, we have organized a number of team volunteering events at local charities, and plan to continue doing so each quarter. However, with a team of less than twenty, coming together on such an endeavor is a relatively easy prospect for us. In larger companies with hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of employees, how realistic is it to align on and execute a social mission?

One way to activate a large group of people is to come together as an industry. Last year, a group of researchers created the Marketing Research Education Foundation in order to bring this sense of activism to the marketing research industry. MREF strives to pool the community’s resources to educate children worldwide. Though still relatively new, they hope to expand their reach with grants and service opportunities for researchers to come together and work towards a common good.

Polman asserts that supporting social issues leads to—rather than is the result of—business success, but for traditionally structured corporations, that may be a hard pill to swallow. At the end of the day, the end goal will always be profit, but as younger and younger faces enter the workforce, shifting priorities may alter the best way to get there.

-Quinten McGruder, Director of Business Operations

Introducing Brewed Insight Sessions by REAL Insight!

As a company specializing in in-context research, the lack of authenticity tied with traditional facility studies has often made them a less-than-ideal methodology. Especially now, as Millennials become the favorite targeted audience, the synthetic rapport of old-fashioned focus groups can be a barrier to truly understanding this target consumer.  They are harder to find, less willing to jump through the proverbial hoops, and are more affected by sterility.

With a desire for a more authentic, empathy-building environment (and inspired by our NE Minneapolis location), we recently fielded a project that overcame many of those challenges with focus groups and promptly tagged it a Brewed Insight Session. With a study structure created and facilitated by our team, and a taproom provided by a nearby microbrewery, we successfully introduced this new and promising methodology into our repertoire of in-context research.

Brewed Insight Sessions deliver strongly on understanding who a consumer is. (*Note, it isn’t  intended to be a solution for business questions better answered by observing buying or usage behavior.) In a relaxed, less-formal setting, consumers are more comfortable engaging in real conversations and honest sharing. This casual atmosphere is essential to create and maintain; therefore the facilitator/moderator must be someone who is able to keep the laidback vibe alive. Empathy and intuition building are imperative these days, and the environment created at a Brewed insight Session is designed specifically with these goals in mind. 

The time and activity breakdown can be structured a number of different ways, based on the specific project objectives, but our recommended method begins with a lead facilitator guiding the group through a few topics and then having time for small group breakouts with the client team. As there is no two-way mirror to hide behind, training and managing the client team is very important. However, the benefit is the team being able to directly interact with the consumers. Another point to consider is, though a little alcohol can help with the mood and authenticity of the session, it is important to have a plan for how to make sure things don’t get too loose. Our facilitators and moderators are effective at providing this plan, as well as offering any additional team training that may be required.

The Twin Cities, like many cities nationwide, have felt the impact of the brewery and distillery explosion. With such a large pool of locations available (and the consistent availability of these spaces early in the week), there is an abundance of options for fielding this type of research. If you are interested in learning more about Brewed Insight Sessions or want to partner on a similar type of project, please feel free to reach out to me at

-Luke Cahill, Managing Principal

No Churn? No Problem.

In a recent article published in Quirk’s, authors Niels Schillewaert, Steven Debaere, and Tom De Ruyck tackle the topic of how to foster a healthy online community. Given that not all online communities achieve their desired result, what are some things that moderators and market researchers can do to attain a successful outcome? The authors start by analyzing why people participate in online studies: although most join for some sort of monetary incentive, the only way to maintain good participation is if participants feel like they are getting something out of the study beyond money. If participants feel intrinsically motivated, there is a better chance they will continue participating.

What are the factors that contribute to a healthy online community?

However, participation itself is not enough. In order for researchers to get the insights they need from online communities, participants must be active, and give useful information. Known as churn, passive participation is a threat to the health of an online community because it allows participants to be involved without actually contributing anything substantial and thus devalues the quality of information. Factors such as community size; recency, frequency, and monetary value; as well as positive and negative emotions all affect churn, which in turn influences if an online community will fly or flop.

With the increased possibilities mobile and online studies give to market research, being aware of negative factors such as churn is essential for any company hoping to produce and maintain a healthy online community. Participants who do nothing more than check the boxes not only deplete helpful contributions, but if the community is socialized, they can also detract from other respondents’ experiences. Acknowledging this risk is important because it demands that moderators be aware of churn potential and not only structure, but moderate studies in such a way to decrease this possible detriment.

Many market research companies are dipping their toes into the waters of online communities, but not all of them have the experience and knowledge to structure and moderate studies in a way that decreases the potential for churn. At REAL Insight, online and mobile options are something at which we have a lot of experience and expertise. We have seen firsthand the incredible insights that can be gleaned from online communities when moderated competently and appropriately. Theoretically understanding how to avoid churn is important, but even more so is having the practice and track record of doing so. Keeping an online community healthy, merry, and bright is something at which we excel and are constantly improving. As the mobile game in market research heats up, we will keep our skills sharp, our insights actionable, and churn at bay.

-Mary Dolan O’Brien, Project Coordinator