10 years ago, Gerald Zaltman, wrote a book that fundamentally altered the way I view markets and
the consumers that inhabit them — How Customers Think. The book lays some foundational notions for those of us that wish to pursue Neuro– and content- marketing. Among them include:
- Most of the thoughts that influence a consumer’s purchasing behavior are UNCONSCIOUS and developing an understanding of consumer thoughts and behaviors requires an understanding of how the brain functions.
- Customers generally can’t understand or explain why they make choices they make, and that efforts to uncover those motivations thru Q&A and other standard ethnographic techniques typically fail.
- Consumers do not live their lives in silo-like fashions by which businesses typically organizes themselves… and this causes problems with the way we engage with our consumers
- Marketing strategies which are based on self-reported feelings, preferences, desires or statements of customers significantly underperform as well.
- Incenting customers to utilize metaphors as they are probed about the products and services they love/hate is a key enabler for truly understanding their feelings around a brand and should be utilized
- Metaphors make it much easier for the researcher to engage in a conversation with the consumer — the consumer is more receptive to such a discussion. Zaltman discusses techniques to elicit such metaphors in a meaningful way
- Focus group failures are a regular occurrence with the output of such efforts typically mis-aligning with the actual consumer intention.
- Memory is quite fallible — being selective, altered by new information, influenced by the way a person feels and is generally too much relied upon even though it is generally NOT reliable.
In the book Zaltman lays out the case that the words that people use when talking about a subject reveal as much as the content. For example, “Liquid” metaphors — words such as “spout, leak, poour, spit, brim over, dry up, in midstream,torrent, stream,” say as much if not more than the actual subject matter content. Zaltman recounts a CEO’s comment related to creativity:
One breakthrough idea can be a tidal wave sending people scurrying to higher ground for protection… But people are just afraid to swim in moving waters, they prefer wading in a stagnant pool.
The quote above is just dripping with metaphors (sorry, I couldn’t resist). But you get the point, the words used to describe a thought, action or feeling are just as important if not more important than the the thought or feeling itself.
This book is a manual for how to understand what’s going on in our consumer’s minds thru the use of psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and linguistics coupled with real-world results. A must read or re-read for those of us interested in truly understanding the mind of our consumers.