Made with REAL Ingredients

REAL Insight has a compulsion to conduct research that authentically reflects reality so that the insights lead to specific recommendations and decisions that help brands grow and avoid costly mistakes. Made with Real Ingredients is a claim that has defined REAL Insight’s work over its 30+ year history, although this is our first time using this language. In terms of research, “real ingredients” means having the right people in the right mindset behaving and responding in the right environment.

Finding the right people is an ongoing challenge for everyone in the research industry. Coming from an intercept background, REAL Insight has a low tolerance for professional respondents—who often respond as experts rather than as themselves—and those too familiar with the process. As we entered this pandemic stay-at-home chapter, we immediately got to work developing a better recruitment solution that prioritizes quality and purity while being cost effective.

What emerged is REAL Recruitment, our proprietary in-house approach to recruitment that avoids overused panels, gives us the control to recruit people we feel good about engaging with, and passes along significant savings to our clients.

Recruiting the right people is important, but so is making sure those right people are in the right mindset for the mission at-hand. With intercepts, shoppers are already in a shopping mindset; with pre-recruits we need to be more intentional about priming respondents to get their mindsets in the right spot to authentically behave and respond on a specific aspect of their life.

Environment is also a critical ingredient because context has a huge impact on mindset. For instance, a delicious piece of pie looks amazing and will be an easy sell when presented in isolation. But a delicious piece of pie presented on a dessert cart (are those still a thing?) with other delicious looking options suddenly becomes less of a no brainer. New products, packaging, and new service opportunities never live in a black hole.

The moral of the story: ingredients matter. The right manufacturing process (research methods, technology, and strategic analysis) matters, too. We will talk more about those next week.

Missed part one? Check it out here!

In-Context Research Requires Environment AND Mindset


As a company whose roots lie with in-store intercepts, we have always had an appreciation for the purity and predictability of learning about shopping behavior and testing concepts/packaging in a real retail environment with shoppers who were in the store to shop.  


Reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman reinforced the idea that we need to preserve as much of the thought process purity as possible because the brain and the subconscious have a powerful ability to impact what we see and how we respond to things.

Thinking about in-store research in particular, there is a powerful difference between consumers who walk through the doors of a store to shop and those who walk in the doors to take part in a research project.  For the actual shoppers, they are thinking of what they shopping for, time constraints, budget, etc.  For pre-recruits, they are thinking about who they are going to meet for the research, what questions they are going to get asked, how they will “perform”, etc.  Each are primed for very different things. 

For research to be truly in-context, the environment needs to be real AND the mindset needs to be real.

The mission and mindset within each category can be critical to understand when learning about objectives like shelf breakthrough and concept understanding.  Someone that is in autopilot within a category is highly unlikely to break routine to consider something new or different no matter how impactful the packaging is.  Additionally, consumers use a number of subconscious short-cuts when shopping categories to simplify their shopping experience. So, what’s the implication?

There is NO way for results to be predictive IF respondents are approaching the research with the “game” mindset.

  • Be cautious when testing within retail “labs” because they consistently only check the “environment” box.   The primary issue here is respondents who are familiar with the objective and process and approach the shopping exercise as a game of “find out what is new or different.”  Recruitment plays a huge role in preventing this: make sure respondents haven’t done a similar type of activity within the last year at least.  Or just do the research in-store.
  • Rely as much as possible on intercepts and in-store recruits if conducting research in-store. 
  • Don’t overuse stores.  We recommend waiting several months before using the same store again to prevent running into the same shoppers again who already “know the drill”.

We have appreciated the traction in-context research has gained in recent years.  However, we have seen how the focus is almost always on the environment, not the mindset.  Make sure your next in-context research project accounts for  both.

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