Staff Writer: Carolyn Johnson
In Los Angeles marketing, most customer feedback and insights come from “Voice of the Customer” programs that question a customer’s experiences with a product or service. Yet these questions may not be the best, most accurate method of measuring consumer behaviors. After all, a customer’s purchasing decisions can be influenced by both logic and emotions. Focus groups and surveys may miss the real, hidden motivations that influence costumer decisions.
Recent, innovative studies have been performed to unearth the hidden customer motivations. One study, performed by Robert Zaltman at the Harvard Business School, asked customers to capture their feelings and thoughts of their customer experiences in the form of images, a bit like billboard advertising Los Angeles.
Marketing firms who follow the study noted that an examination of the images was followed by a conversation with the consumer, who was prompted to explain the photograph and the emotions associated with it. These conversations can provide some interesting insights into a brand and how a costumer views that brand (figuratively or metaphorically).
Utilizing images can help define your brand in ways that words alone likely wouldn’t cover by themselves. This use of images in Voice of the Customer research is known as the “Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique” (ZMET) by any marketing agency Los Angeles. Marketing firms have studied the benefits of using ZMET over other methods of customer evaluation.
There are several reasons why using associative imagery in customer studies can reap great benefits. One reason is that images can metaphorically elaborate on more complex emotions and logic behind the customer’s opinion of the brand. For example, a simple customer complaint of a brand could go something like “your employees are difficult to talk to,” but that could be attributed to any number of issues associated with that experience, such as confusing bureaucracy to rude employees. Images can reveal complex problems in a more holistic fashion and prompt moves for improvement.
Imagery can also visually reveal the customer experience, as well as what it’s like to be a consumer of a particular brand. A brand may have a more complex relationship with its customers, which may be better summarized with images instead of words.
Another great reason to use images in B2B customer research is the recent emergence of imaging technologies. Nowadays, with the majority of cell phone users having phones that also double as still and video cameras, image-making is ubiquitous. Customers can take images on the fly and thus be better able to express themselves via images, faster. Taking pictures has never been this convenient. The same goes for sending these images, which a customer can do straight from his phone.
One problem that focus groups and surveys often suffer from is poor communication. Customers often find the work of “Take This Survey!” to be dreadful, tedious work. The few customers that do participate may not be so thorough, resulting in outcomes that may not reflect the truth of the matter. Using ZMET, on the other hand, provides a more fun and less laborious experience for the customer.