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The Brainy Business | Understanding the Psychology of Why People Buy | Behavioral Economics

Dec 3, 2021

You are familiar with likely learned about them in elementary school. But do you know how important they are in your business? 

Well, it turns out that metaphors are way more important in understanding the mind of your consumer than you could have possibly imagined. There are two associates from the firm Olson Zaltman here today to share the power of metaphors and how they use them in their Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET) process. The ZMET was created by Dr. Gerald Zaltman at the Harvard Business School in the 1990s and is still incredibly relevant for brands today. 

During the conversation, Malcolm and Hannibal Brooks will share how they have used the ZMET for brands like Harvard, Tropicana, a funeral company, and more. Plus, insights into the 16 deep metaphors they work with at Olson Zaltman and why they matter for all companies who want to appeal to their customers (i.e. everyone!). 

Show Notes:

  • [00:06] In today’s episode we are digging deep into the power of metaphors with two associates of Olson Zaltman.
  • [02:53] Malcolm and Hannibal share about themselves, their background, and how as twins they ended up in the same field and working together. 
  • [03:44] They both graduated with degrees in food science and went to a master’s program focused on marketing, management, and consumer psychology. 
  • [05:57] At Olson Zaltman, they do research that is focused on understanding the unconscious through metaphor. Their process is focused on using imagery and verbal metaphors to understand emotions. 
  • [06:40] We think in images, not in words; metaphors are our way of describing the world. 
  • [09:28] Metaphors really affect the way we perceive the world around us. 
  • [11:04] Part of what makes these metaphors universal is that a lot of them originate in the experiences we have in life that exist before we can even verbalize. 
  • [12:25] There are 16 deep metaphors that define our experience. 
  • [14:48] Different groups of consumers might have different metaphors or understandings of a product or service. 
  • [15:24] For women, clothing is a form of self-expression and freedom.  For men, clothing is often about a form of control. 
  • [18:12] They share examples of the types of business problems they are solving.
  • [19:42] With ZMET they want to understand with your particular consumers, are they getting something out of your product and your brand?
  • [22:44] Prior to the ZMET process the business only needs to know the problem that they are having. 
  • [25:08] The ZMET process can help answer a lot of questions for businesses. 
  • [25:57] They share their findings from a case study with Harvard.
  • [28:17] Helping to trigger the unity piece can be very valuable (as was the case for Harvard). They have found that there are core principles that they stumble upon time and time again. 
  • [31:12] Deep 1-on-1 guided conversations help them unpack what is the best way for the business to move forward. 
  • [33:20] You want to understand your brand’s core assets and what fits with the mindset people have around it. 
  • [36:19] One of their most fun cases to talk about is the research they did for the Funeral Service Foundation. They found that people would look at their funeral almost as a performance. People don’t want to be remembered in a way that is sad. They want to be remembered for who they were, with a celebration. 
  • [38:57] Their recommendations included creating this online experience that is more fun, including the most fun things about the person and how they want to be remembered. It gets people thinking and talking about their death while they are still alive by making it less scary. 
  • [41:33] Their real work is understanding stories and connecting with people.  
  • [42:23] Melina shares her closing thoughts. 
  • [44:28] Shop at The Brainy Business shop for that perfect brainy gift.

Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show. 

I hope you love everything recommended via The Brainy Business! Everything was independently reviewed and selected by me, Melina Palmer. So you know, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means if you decide to shop from the links on this page (via Amazon or others), The Brainy Business may collect a share of sales or other compensation.

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