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How Technology and Robots Shaped Our Japan Trend Trip.

This spring, we embarked on an international trend trip to Japan, where we set out to find innovative trends applicable to our clients across industries. Visiting Tokyo and Osaka, as well as a number of other areas, we were able to revisit our anthropological roots, touring museums and showrooms, exploring neighborhoods, and observing as well as participating in everyday life.

Key Trends:

AI and digital assistance are on the rise throughout the world, and Japan – long hailed as a leader in tech innovation – is no exception. A key differentiator in Japan, however, is that many new AI features have faces or human elements – making the environment feel much more friendly and approachable.

  • Rather than speaking to a Siri or an Alexa – which have human names and voices, though no figures – we would interact with a friendly robot at the train station, who would help us find our destination or greet us as we walked into a shop.
  • Actual humans were often standing in the wings to help with the navigation of tech.

We saw various examples of what appeared to be cutting-edge technology integrated with older traditions and systems.

  • For example, tapping digital cards to board trains or buses – but being able to load the card only with cash, not a credit or debit card

Beyond the digital realm, we saw an abundance of innovation in technological advances.

  • Pushing a button to call waitstaff to our table at a restaurant and taxi doors that automatically opened and closed are just a few nondigital innovations we saw in action

As the world continues to push toward tech, trends we saw in Japan encourage us to think about how to make the digital and AI realms more approachable and how to make life as efficient and smooth as possible using both digital and using innovative new technology methods.

After visiting Japan, our team produced a video to commemorate their trip! Click to view. 

| Research

Live Your Dreams: Wherever You Find Yourself.

When we launched our Quote to Self project, we weren’t just interested in what our friends and colleagues here in Minneapolis thought. We wanted insights from around the world, and we’ve been fortunate to receive answers from six continents. (If you know anyone living in Antarctica, we’d sure love to hear from them!)

Our team recently took our question to three major central European cities: Budapest, Prague and Vienna. Throughout the week in Europe, we encountered travelers and locals who were intrigued by our question – and sometimes a bit stumped.

On the streets of Budapest, Hungary, we crossed paths with a woman named Carola. When prompted with the question “What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?” she answered with no hesitation:

“Live your dreams, because when you look back when you’re older, you [may have] missed opportunities.”

Carola turned 15 in the Holland region of the Netherlands, just as the “love and rock-and-roll” decade was coming to an end. The ’60s were known for changing political and cultural mindsets, even in Europe. It was common to find Europeans riding around on Vespa scooters or cruising in their British Mini Coopers. In 1962, the premiere of “Dr. No” launched the longest continually running film series in history, the James Bond movies. London transformed to become the fashion capital of the world. And British pop music took over, leading to the true glory of the 1960s: The Beatles.

Wondering what other advice we’ve received? Follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages. Have a nugget of wisdom you’d like to share? Visit our Quote to Self website to participate. We want to hear from you!


| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

Forever Young.

As we enter the halfway point of our Quote to Self project, our inboxes have overflowed with inspirational advice from across the nation and the world. Of course, in true Fusion Hill style, we’ve also had some fun remembering songs – like Alphaville’s “Forever Young” – that embrace being a teen (with a touch of rebellion, perhaps).

While we’re certainly finding some themes emerge as we sort through all the submissions, we’re also finding joy in the variety of ideas and respondents. We’ve received submissions from all ages including one from Laosue, who is currently attending college and was 15 just four years ago.

Laosue turned 15 in Owasso, Oklahoma, during a time when Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was on the radio, “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” were on the big screen, and Taylor Swift was embarking on her 1989 World Tour. 2015 was also the year Lin-Manuel Miranda premiered his groundbreaking musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton.

His advice to his 15-year-old self is personable, authentic and also inspiring:

“Trust in the process and stay true to who you are. Things will always get better, so speak your truth.”

Wondering what other advice we’ve received? Follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages. Have a nugget of wisdom you’d like to share? Visit our Quote to Self website to participate. We want to hear from you!


| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

Nina Gazel Named a Minneapolis 32 Under 32 New Original.

Here at Fusion Hill, our team comprises intuitively smart, curious, passionate individuals who give back to their community. Ad Fed recognizes 32 up-and-coming professionals in the Twin Cities each year. These influential leaders are driving their companies forward and helping define the future of the industry. This past month, our very own Nina Gazel, director of research and strategy, was recognized and honored with this prestigious award.

Nina has been with Fusion Hill for the last five years, and she quickly went from being an intern to reaching one of our most senior-level positions. Nina puts others first and truly creates long-lasting partnerships with both clients and Fusion Hill colleagues. Nina is innovative and strategic – having led the work of numerous clients to pivotal breakthroughs. She also invests in recruiting the best talent for Fusion Hill and nurturing team members to reach their fullest potential.

Nina’s investment in others goes far beyond Fusion Hill as well. For the last three years, she has served as a board member and now vice president of the Ted Mullin Fund Minneapolis Chapter, a nonprofit dedicated to sarcoma cancer research and awareness, where she leads new fundraising events including such varied activities as kickball, pub trivia and yoga. Her true passion lies in “nonprofit matchmaking,” or connecting other Millennials with local causes and organizations that align with their interests.

32 Under 32 recognizes influential leaders across Minneapolis’ agencies. Hundreds of people are nominated for this prestigious award, and we couldn’t be more proud of Nina’s accomplishment.

| Culture, Research

Three Challenges in Health Care.


This month we headed to the Health Experience Design Conference in Boston to learn more about how human-centered design is sparking improved patient experience and systemic innovation in health care. It got us thinking about three challenges that we, our clients, and other research and design practitioners are tackling across the health care world and beyond:

How might we strike the balance of authentic but appropriate communication?

Patients respond positively to seeing their own language reflected in health care communications, rather than intimidating clinical jargon. At the same time, they expect their health institutions to be the experts—to earn the trust placed in them. We see this challenge in the financial sector as well. It takes thoughtful user research to find a warm, authentic tone that does not cross too far into informality.

How might we prompt long-lasting engagement?

Patient engagement is a priority across the health care industry. But increasingly, research is showing that trendy engagement techniques like gamification do not often lead to lasting change. Behavior change models tell us that the most successful interventions are those that help people connect to personally meaningful goals and that satisfy deeper psychological needs: patients’ sense of autonomy, competence, and belonging.

How might we reverse the course of the river?

As Steve Downs of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noted, the health care system often asks patients to essentially swim upstream—to practice healthier behaviors in an environment that makes all of the unhealthy behaviors more convenient and more affordable. Rather than telling them to swim harder, our job as researchers and designers is to help “reverse the course of the river”: to find ways to alter the environment and building blocks of daily life to make healthy choices the easier option.

Do these challenges resonate with your organization? Connect with us to continue the conversation.

| Culture, Research

The Big 15.

Picture yourself at age 15. Then – once you’ve stopped cringing at your fashion choices – imagine how you felt at that moment in time. Just on the verge of independence, you might have been getting your driver’s permit, juggling high school activities and even starting to think a little bit about post-graduation plans.

At age 15, we were becoming our own individual, and it was an exciting yet challenging path to navigate. That’s why we’re asking the question:

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Each month, we’ve been featuring a different piece of advice, and we’ve been impressed with just how humbly wise the submissions have been. This month, we look to Kelly, who turned 15 in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2004 – the year Facebook launched as a social networking site for Harvard students. And Google introduced Gmail to the public. Most of us were watching Shrek 2 and the final season of Friends. And the U.S. brought 102 medals home from the Summer Olympics in Greece.

Looking back, Kelly wishes she could tell her 15-year-old self:

“Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy. Do not stress about the future – it won’t turn out the way you envision it anyway. Relax about growing up and don’t be in a hurry. The moment to be young, unattached and living carefree is now. Live it up!”

What memories do you have of being 15? And what advice would you give to yourself at that age? We’d love to hear from you!

Visit our Quote to Self website to participate. And to see the project in action and watch for your own quote, visit and follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages.


| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

What We Wish We Knew at Age 15.

In honor of our 15th year of Insight & Imagination, we recently kicked off a special project called “Quote to Self.” If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the submissions on Instagram answering this one question: “What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?” It’s been exciting to hear the sage advice (and see some great throwback hairstyles) rolling in from our research participants, clients, employees and friends from all corners of the country. And while it develops week by week on Instagram, the project will go global in May and culminate in a consumer insight report with an exhibit at our September anniversary party.

Here’s a spotlight on one of our early contributors – Jose:

Born in July 1965, Jose from Hazel Park, Michigan, turned 15 in 1980, when Rubik’s cube and Pac-Man were released and became popular icons. In that same year, Mount St. Helen’s erupted and the USA men’s Olympic hockey team won gold – after defeating the Russian team in the “Miracle on Ice” – while Blondie topped the charts with “Call Me.” When we asked Jose what advice he’d give to his younger self, he stated:

“Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid of what anyone else thinks. They don’t care or can’t know what you are capable of achieving. Be weird, be bold, be ready to step out and feel new air on your face.”

What memories do you have of being 15? And what advice would you give to yourself at that age? We’d love to hear from you!

Visit our Quote to Self website to download an editable form and submit your responses to quotetoself@fusionhill.com. And to see the project in action and watch for your own quote, visit and follow our Quote to Self Instagram and Facebook pages.

| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

Digital Writing Best Practices.

While some best practices for communicating with consumers—like having a clear and consistent brand voice and honoring your brand’s values—are timeless and universal, how the marketing world carries out its objectives has evolved. The growth of social media platforms has caused a shift in the location of advertisements, and marketers need to be aware of the differences, strengths, and weaknesses of each platform in order to choose the best tool for effective communication. Having a clear understanding of an industry’s objectives can also help determine which platform to use.

In order to transform consumers into long-term advocates, it’s essential to learn strategies that can be applied on each platform to attract, engage, and convert consumers. Of course, attracting an audience is all about grabbing their attention long enough to further engage them, so striking visuals and brief copy are essential. Engaging your audience goes hand-in-hand with understanding what they find important and demonstrating that your brand gets it. Once the audience is hooked, compelling them with actionable content and an emotional connection will convert them into advocates.

Interested in learning more about how to effectively communicate with consumers in this digital world? Visit our Insight Library to download the full report.

| Creative, Research

QRCA 2019: Charting Our Best Course.

Here at Fusion Hill we are passionate about keeping up with industry trends and ensuring our methodologies and deliverables keep us ahead of the curve and providing successful outcomes for our clients. Where better to brush up on our skills than at the 2019 Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) annual conference in Savannah, Georgia, with over 250 of the industry’s top qualitative researchers? Here are some of our key takeaways from this year’s event:

Neuroscience: Using behavioral science to understand decision-making, elicit deeper truths and be more memorable 

From storytelling to design study, a basic understanding of neuroscience and behavioral economics provides the rationale for our best research practices, ensuring that we are communicating the most valuable findings in the most memorable way.

People will forget 90% of what you tell them, so it is critical to be intentional in crafting your content and the 10% your audience will remember. Framing key takeaways in familiar mental models and heuristics ensures they will strike a chord with your audience. Bonus points for adding small twists and surprises that balance familiarity with novelty and leave your audience intrigued.

Consumers also expect to communicate within familiar mental models. When in the field, researchers must be aware of the various outside factors that color a participant’s behaviors and responses – everything from the words we use in our questions to current events can affect how participants respond.

Even more than mental models, behavioral science tells us that emotion is a key driver for adding meaning and getting to deep truths. Good researchers know that fact does not necessarily equal the teller’s truth and that by following the emotion, we are able to evoke meaningful and rich insights that are invaluable for strategic business decisions. One way we use the power of emotion is through storytelling. Studies have shown that storytelling creates emotional resonance and produces high levels of oxytocin for both the audience and the storyteller, leading to a more unforgettable presentation. By seeing the story in everything, we are able to provide meaningful and memorable detail that may be unavailable otherwise.

Design thinking: Moving from moderating to strategic facilitation

Design thinking is a method of analyzing research findings and turning them into actionable business opportunities using collective, solution-focused thinking. In design thinking, researchers are more than just moderators; they are strategic partners and facilitators who use their experience and empathy skills to keep the ideation process rooted in the consumer’s needs. Design thinking is an increasingly popular insights method as clients face ever tighter deadlines and shifting business targets. At Fusion Hill we have always had a strong focus on actionable insights and have facilitated ideation sessions that allow our clients to quickly translate customer feedback into here-and-now business strategies.

Creative approaches: Thinking outside the question-and-answer box

Our team is always on the hunt for creative, new qualitative research techniques. This year’s QRCA sessions focused heavily on refreshing tried-and-true techniques, from theater games and improv to quick get-to-know-you activities. Good qualitative moderators know that even a 5-minute activity can have immense benefits ­– energizing participants, shaking up group thought, breaking down self-censors, and triggering new ideas and connections. When used correctly, these out-of-the-box techniques help us push both clients and respondents out of their comfort zones and illuminate previously inaccessible connections and insights.

Role-play is another creative approach for getting deep insights when dealing with sensitive topics. Role-play helps us get to truer conversations while protecting privacy and avoiding the logistical hurdles associated with on-site ethnographic research. This is especially true in health care, where gaining access to confidential patient-doctor conversations is not only tricky but also sometimes unethical. Our team attended a fascinating session on using medically trained actors as a methodology for interviewing doctors. This creative approach allows researchers to better understand language around a topic or product, as well as explore decision-making in the moment and test how variables may shift it. If you are interested in pursuing this methodology, let’s talk!

Keeping the conversation going

Reach out to us at Fusion Hill to learn more about our approach to qualitative research and how we are continually improving our ability to answer your most pressing questions.

| Research

15 Years. One Big Question.

Imagine yourself at age 15. Where were you living? What fashion mistakes were you embracing? What goals did you want to achieve in your lifetime? These questions have been on our minds as we reflect on our own 15 years of insight and imagination at Fusion Hill. And in honor of our anniversary, we’re launching our Quote-to-Self project. The goal is to hear how people answer this one question:

What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

What would you say to younger you? We hope you’ll participate by filling out this form. Bonus points if you ask your friends, family and coworkers to complete it too!

As we travel the country – and the world – in 2019, we’ll ask the same question of our research participants we meet in the field. It’s all part of our drive to discover what similarities connect people and what traits make them unique.

We’ll share responses and insights throughout the year on our Quote to Self Instagram account. Be sure to follow us to see the project grow!

| Creative, Culture, Quote to Self Project, Research

One Day. 492 Meals.

Sharing our good fortune is a core belief at Fusion Hill, and over the past 15 years we’ve done pro bono work to help children, families and aspiring creatives. We also invite employees to volunteer for causes they believe in on company time – for a total of 2,000+ hours last year alone.

As our company has grown, we’ve been fortunate to participate in a companywide initiative that brings employees together to volunteer on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For the third year in a row, we spent Monday at Open Arms of Minnesota, where we cooked and delivered nutritious meals to individuals with life-threatening illnesses, their caregivers and their dependents. With our staff of 40+, we assembled our team into two groups, which enabled us to package 288 meals and deliver 492 meals.

As always, we’re grateful for the opportunity to give back to our community. And for the great people and welcoming atmosphere at Open Arms.

| Culture

A Time for Celebration. And for Giving.

While New Year’s is typically a time of anticipation for what’s ahead, 2019 is also a year of reflection for Fusion Hill. That’s because we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary.

January 7, 2004, marks the official day Kerry and Kasey launched what has grown to a team of 40+ employees. But we’ll be celebrating all year long with a year of giving, an anniversary party this fall and more.

We kicked off our year of giving with a holiday gift that included hat donations to charities that serve the homeless in the Twin Cities and other locations where Fusion Hill employees live. At the same time, we gave financial support to help launch 15 women-owned small businesses through Heifer International.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we’ll once again volunteer our time at Open Arms of Minnesota, helping bring nutritious meals to people dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

We look forward to a year of giving – in our community and beyond. And we’re excited to celebrate our 15th anniversary with everyone who’s helped make Fusion Hill what it is today.

| Culture

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