The metaphor is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him. – Jose Ortega y Gasset
I’m getting a lot of my inspiration from TED talks at the moment – mainly because I watch them while putting the kids to bed in a bid to avoid falling asleep myself.
And Morgan Spurlock’s talk The greatest TED talk ever sold came up on my feed.
It’s about Spurlock’s vision to create a film about product placement but the bit that caught my attention was twelve minutes in where Spurlock decided he needed an expert to help him understand his “brand personality”.
He went to Olson Zaltman, founded by Dr Gerald Zaltman who came up with the Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique, or ZMET.
The process they used with Spurlock came up with the idea that his brand personality was “mindful-playful”, which seemed to sum up his approach of going into deep, important subjects in a different, imaginative and irreverent way.
So, what is ZMET and how does it work.
It turns out that it was patented and I came across another associated patent on using the technique along with physiological monitoring.
The basic point Zaltman makes is that most communication is non-verbal, although that’s debatable, so market research methods that are based on verbal means miss the stuff that isn’t being said – the things people are less aware of.
The ZMET is a way to make these “hidden” preferences more visible.
The picture above takes elements of the MET that’s described in the patent – 14 steps in all.
The process starts with something like a storyboard – select images that are important to you and talk about them, tell stories to the researcher.
Sort your images into groups – try and see what’s common about them.
The reason you’re doing this is to study something – yourself perhaps – or your product brand – so dig into that product using all the senses you have, including sound, shape, touch, smell, taste and feelings.
From all your images select one that is the most representative – what describes you best.
Now that you’ve seen all you’ve seen, think about what you couldn’t get – talk about that.
Talk about the opposite of what you are.
Talk about the one critical message you want the audience to get.
And talk about what they will want to hear least – what’s the message they will be most resistant to.
Now, if you’ve done all this you have a rich trove of material to work with – lots and lots of metaphors.
Then you put things together to create a mental map – what I’m used to calling a conceptual model.
Something like “mindful-playful”.
It would be nice to see if there are other groupings like that but I didn’t find that in my brief search, no doubt there are papers on the topic.
The thing with this method is that it’s like a storyboard on steroids.
We know we’re told to collect pictures of what we want – get that image clear.
But this approach takes those images and really digs into them to find out what’s underpinning them – and that’s why I think it’s really quite powerful.
Personally, I might do it with drawings, just because that’s even more organic.
You know – talk to someone about the important events in their lives and get them to draw rough sketches, sort of like I’ve done in the picture.
But really, it’s about trying to hear what’s often not said.
And it’s when you do that that you discover what’s at the very core of who you are.
And when you do that you know everything you need to know to get your brand personality right.