With tons of funds spared for research, even though firms communicate in line with the consumers’ will, few brands win through. This problem stems from assuming consumers make conscious decisions while overlooking what they buy, why and how they buy it.
During 12,000 in-depth interviews held in over 30 countries for over 100 clients, Gerald Zaltman and Jerry Olson discovered seven deep metaphors that were most often encountered in all of the countries. These metaphors help us interpret what we perceive within the world that surrounds us. With the help of metaphors, we see new relationships, interpret the incidents we experience, and we draw meaning from these incidents. According to an assessment, we use approximately six metaphors within every minute we speak. Consumers, who differ in almost every aspect such as cultural past, age, gender, education status, profession, political values, consumer experiences, primary beliefs, religious preferences, are in agreement on these seven metaphors. When we look at the consumer discourse analysis, while these metaphors are universal, they are the ones that have the most communication value for the brands...
So what motives feed these metaphors? What are their meanings?
Balance, expresses a physical, psychological, ethical, or social state of balance. The closer we get to this state, we experience a feeling of balance; the further away we get from it, we feel unbalance. This is the deepest metaphor that we develop early on, that is present since our infancy. Balance is not a stable state, it is fluid.
Transformation implies a real or assumed change from one state to another.
Journey Our feeling of the past, the present, and the future often unite to create the experience of a physical, social, or psychological journey. Since the Journey metaphor is the basis for people’s life stories, if one concentrates hard enough on the themes created by a certain journey, the interactions with the client are more successful.
The container metaphor has a dual function: Keeping objects in and out. The container can both protect us and imprison us; it can open or close; it can be positive or negative... It involves physical, psychological, and social instances.
The connection metaphor or the lack of it involves feelings of belonging and isolation.
Resources are the capabilities or capacities utilized to reach certain states or to re-establish these states. A resource may be physical (a tool, a person, an organization, etc.) or incorporeal (skills, knowledge set, etc.).
Control is about our wish to control matters that impacts us.
WHAT DOES ZMET DO REGARDING THE FIVE MISCONCEPTIONS IN MARKETING?
“Consumers think in words.”
People do not express their thoughts only in words. Words are certainly very important in conveying our thoughts, however, they do not portray the big picture. People think in images and resort to expressions in order to be able to translate these images that pop up in their heads. Since humans are generally not so good in translating, a lot of valuable insights may get lost during this phase. ZMET does not leave it to the consumer to translate himself and uncovers the emotions in the subconscious.
“Consumers have only one perspective about a notion.”
While trying to make sense of an emotion, research makes pseudo-discoveries and does not show the necessary effort to understand the anatomy of an emotion... The anatomy of an emotion consists of many complex features and enables the emotion to have different meanings under different circumstances. For example, a research conducted for a leading brand on the meaning of “joy”, has diagnosed more than 15 elements of this basic emotion. ZMET uncovers the surface level metaphors, thematic metaphors, and deep metaphors of each notion. Throughout this three-layered process, the anatomy of emotion is explored.
“Consumers describe their ways of thinking and behaviors very easily.”
Ninety-five percent of all thinking occurs subconsciously. George Lowenstein says “The conscience interprets behavior after the deed rather than directing it or controlling it.” Marketers are already stating that emotions are subconscious and it is up to skillful researchers’ to bring those to the surface.
For instance, when asked why they prefer an expensive chocolate brand, people may say they felt empathy and bought this as a gift to their friend. Bur the reality is very different: In fact most people buy this brand for their own consumption. The reasons for that involve guilt and joy and are beyond the normal control requiring a skillful moderator so that it can be analyzed at this level. ZMET focuses on the question “Why” and does co-creation.
“The culture and the society around consumer’s minds, brains, and bodies, can be analyzed independently from each other.”
Consumers cannot properly sort and box their experiences. In reality, consumers do not live their lives as universities or companies have organized them. In order to understand consumers, one must focus on the interactions between these four elements. For instance, taste tests... A dish that is considered as first class in every culture, can cause violent physical reactions in another cultural environment. ZMET is based on universal metaphors but deciphers based on the fact that different cultures may be rooted in different deep metaphors regarding a case.
“Brand messages can be taught to consumers and consumers interpret these messages in the same way marketers express them.”
The mind of the consumer is not a blank piece of paper. However, in order to find out about the impact of an ad, marketers ask consumers how much of it they remember and whether they like it or not. However, when encountering product concepts, brand stories, brand information, consumers do not comprehend these messages actively. Instead, with the information coming from the brand, they create their own meanings by blending their own recollections, the signals in effect at that moment, and the metaphors that come to their mind. ZMET invests in emotion and the subconscious rather than what brands try to teach. In order to be able to explore recollections, it refers to digital collages, stories, and sense analyses.
WHAT DOES ANDY ADIS, OLSON ZALTMAN DIRECTOR AND KEYNOTE SPEAKER, SAY ABOUT THE ZMET APPROACH?
We express ourselves through metaphors. For example Archimedes says “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” What matters here is how the lever and the fulcrum are positioned. If we link this to the world of research, this is how research is. Your research source is your lever and your fulcrum is the strong insights that you will obtain. Strong, healthy, and deep insights determine the new boundaries of research.
The competitive advantage has shifted shape in the last 10 years and will continue to do so in the coming years.
As David Ogilvy also states, “Many companies use market research as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”
It is a must to do research to find support but we also need deeper methods to establish deeper relationships with consumers. How much of your resources do you spend on support and how much of it do you spend on illumination? At least 20% of your research budget must be open to new illumination and new discoveries...
Following Russia and Bulgaria, Turkey is the third fastest growing country in market research in Europe... In order to receive the return on these investments, one needs to go deeper rather than staying on the surface. There is no such thing as insufficient data, but insufficient thinking. Insufficient data, stems from our attempt to determine human nature with outdated approaches.
Consumers mostly do not know what they think. ZMET helps reveal secret thoughts.
WHAT DOES TIM BRADLEY, ONE OF OLSON ZALTMAN’S EXECUTIVES, SAY ABOUT THE ZMET APPROACH?
Contrary to the multi-focus of other research, the ZMET approach enables the analysis of one single metaphor down to its deepest level.
Imagine yourself digging three different spots on a beach and making effort in three different areas...
On the contrary, ZMET involves the analysis of one single shining metaphor three levels deeper thanks to accredited researchers.
In order to achieve this, ZMET uses a technique named laddering. Laddering consists of the exploration of sociological, psychological, and functional features as well as the adjectives related to a metaphor, by special questioning techniques.
ZMET is a difficult method, an organic research approach... Data obtained, shapes throughout the interview, based on the responses from the consumer.
One of the most important features of ZMET is that the technique permits to reach important deep findings at every interview based on the participating interviewee profile: start participant, silent participant, dominant participant, etc... Because the ZMET approach does not only explore main metaphors via pictures but also involves post-sensory work, storytelling, digital-collaging, and the analysis of consensus maps. Therefore, you can comprehend the metaphor the consumer is talking about with various tools 360°. That’s the beauty of the ZMET approach: You can dig the sand to the deepest end, descend to the subconscious and not get lost in to the subconscious and you do not get lost in multi-focus.