BOOK REVIEW: Marketing Metaphoria

31 Jul

A copywriter at work loaned me a copy of Gerald Zaltman’s Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal About the Minds of Consumers. The book is about learning how to listen to your audience and how deeply metaphors are ingrained in our psychology.

I like taking lots of notes when I read and keep all my personal book reviews in a wiki. It helps me track down sources and thoughts I may have had while reading them. Here’s my notes from Marketing Metaphoria, most of which are direct quotes from the book that I thought were interesting.

marketing metaphoria book

Thinking shallowly

• Deep thinking is hard work. That’s why the majority of people simply draw obvious conclusions that have no larger impact on a project.

• Focusing on the short-term is called presentism. It is 1) a failure to consider what one does not know and needs to learn, and 2) a desire to produce quick, short-term results that occur at the expense of thoughtfulness.

• It often occurs as a fear of punishment from management. It can be disruptive to organizations who don’t support it. It goes against the flow of co-workers.

What doesn’t work

• Using outdated models of human behavior.

What are Deep Metaphors?

• Workable Wondering is a term used to describe the process of challenging our ideas with empirical, rigorous, and relevant data and information.

• Deep metaphors occur when you go beyond the available knowledge base. It requires foresight and empathy.

• Exploring beyond consumers surface level thinking and learning from their perspective.

Seven Giants (the basis of all deep metaphors)

These in general are universal and work across age, race, sex and culture

1. Balance – (imbalance) includes ideas of equilibrium, adjusting, maintaining and offsetting forces. Ex. physical balance, moral balance, social balance and aesthetic and psychological balance.

2. Transformation – this involves changing states or position.Physically, emotionally etc. Consumers may actively seek or avoid transformation.

3. Journey – consumers talk about many aspects of life being a journey. Life, in general, is framed as a big journey.

4. Container – containers perform two functions, keeping things in and keeping them out. They can protect us or trap us, can be opened or closed, and be positive or negative. They invlove physical, psychological and social states.

5. Connection – (disconnection) encompasses feelings of belonging or exclusion: being kept in or out of the loop, identifying with heros, drawn to celebs, or breaking up in a relationship.

6. Resource – we need resources to survive. We would die w/out food and water. Family and friends are resources. Money is a resource. A smart friend is a resource.

7. Control – humans need to feel in control of our lives. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we do not.

Foundations of Deep Metaphors

• We can observe meaningful differences only by using a common denominator – the dimension about or around which people differ. Essentially, this means noticing the patterns of differences or similarities between groups of people.

• By detecting patterns we can place objects, persons and events into particular categories.

Putting Deep Metaphors To Work

• The disciplined use of deep metaphors contributes to the act of Workable Wondering.

• Methods do matter, up to a point – using familiar research methods is great but what else can you do.

• Every research method involves trade-offs – consumer insights must be reliable and substantive and reflect deep conscious and unconscious consumer thoughts.

• Workable wondering trumps research technique – once you develop a consumer insight, workable wondering counts more than the method used to generate said insight.

• Data alone are just data – without insight the data does not propose solutions, ideas, insights or strategies.

• There are no easy solutions, just prescriptions for failure – if an answer immediately emerges in a study it should be questioned judiciously.

• Knowing the deep metaphor is not enough – you need to understand the emotions behind it. What activated the deep metaphor.

• A metaphor is just a metaphor – finding the deep metaphor is not an answer to a tactical or strategic question.

• Every manager sees and thinks differently – learn to leverage people strengths.

A Sample Framework for Thinking Deeply

• Attributes -> Functional Consequences -> Emotional Consequences (psychological and social) ->Personal Values and Goals  |  This is the narrative story that metaphorically conveys the entire web meaning.

Choosing the Right Deep Metaphor

• When multiple deep metaphors are present, focus on just one or two when developing a new marketing strategy.

• It’s better to leverage one deep metaphor really well, rather than a few poorly.

• When choosing a metaphor ask yourself these questions:

– Which metaphors do competitors own?

– Which metaphor works best with relevant consumer emotions?

– Which deep metaphor will most likely activate other deep metaphors? Where are the overlaps?

– Does a metaphor have a negative connotation that could surface inadvertently?

– Should the campaign begin with one deep metaphor and transition to another throughout the campaign?

– Does on deep metaphor cannibalize another that is already working for a company?

– If there is more than one deep metaphor working in a campaign do they “blend” to create unique ideas?

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