- Hardcover: 323 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business School Press; 1 edition (February 21, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1578518261
- ISBN-13: 978-1578518265
- Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #293,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market 1st Edition
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Harvard Business School professor Zaltman notes that despite enormous amounts of time and money dedicated to customer surveys and marketing, approximately 80% of all new products fail within six months or fall significantly short of their profit forecast. This shouldn't be surprising, he convincingly argues, since "a great mismatch exists between the way consumers experience and think about their world and the methods marketers use to collect this information." He calls for creative questioning that probes the unconscious values underlying consumers' reactions to products and marketing campaigns. Drawing on an impressive array of recent multidisciplinary research, Zaltman is especially provocative on the importance of memory, metaphor and storytelling in customers' decision making and the ways marketers might use these findings. Marketers worried about the scale and complexity of the surveys Zaltman advocates will breathe a sigh of relief as he outlines efficient methods to develop a set of shared values in a target market by creatively interviewing a small sample of customers. In fact, large vision and practical application go hand-in-hand for Zaltman. He may caution, rather abstractly, that successfully gauging the mind of the market depends on developing creative surveys and quality thinking about information gathered, but he also reminds readers to frame campaigns for a product in terms that vividly communicate its function and its emotional appeal for consumers. Zaltman's smart, practical analysis and many success stories will hold special appeal for those facing competitive markets, as well as for those rethinking more limited marketing approaches.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Any marketing professional will treasure this book." -- Denver Business Journal, December 8, 2003
"Anyone involved in market research should read this book: its where the practice is headed." -- brandchannel.com, August 6, 2003
"How Customers Think is exciting ... It advances provacative ideas ... for real learning and change." -- Fast Company Magazine, February 2003
"How Customers Think offers fresh insights into the consumer mind." -- Rajeev Kamineni, Marketing Update, October, 2003
"Its a handy and thought-provoking, if not essential, book for modern marketers." -- Harvey Schachter, Globe and Mail, May 7, 2003
"The book describes some important, recent knowledge about how customers think, feel, remember, and construct their realities." -- Marketing Management, July 8, 2003
"The book is informative and verbalizes part of my own philosophy, developed after 25 years in the product development field." -- Bill Clem, Business 2.0 Magazine, May 1, 2003
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Top customer reviews
The book itself is academic and wanders around more than a bit, but there are pleasant surprises at every turn. For example, Zaltman outlines three primary research errors:
1. Mistaking Descriptions for Insight
2. Confusing Data With Understanding
3. Focusing On The Wrong Elements Of Study
He also makes a persuasive case for 1:1 interviews instead of focus groups, and I agree with him here. In-depth interviews are my preferred research method for most situations. He supports this 1:1 method with research indicating that the outside limit for effective small group communication is three people.
Zaltman also presses the case that 95% of our thoughts are unconscious, and that marketers rely too heavily on people's purported understanding of themselves (i.e., the 5% of conscious thought). He argues that people are driven by an inner world of images, stories, metaphors, and ultimately, emotions.
While people report on their inner worlds with words, Zaltman argues that too often marketers take these words at face value, which is a mistake, for there is a low correlation between what people say they'll do and what they actually do. More often than not, he believes customers use unconscious mental models to sort the stimulus that comes their way.
Ultimately, this book is about unearthing the unconscious metaphors that lead to conscious behavior, and then finding the right types of stimuli to influence that behavior. If anything, this book will help marketers become more perceptive in discovering how customers think.
This by itself is not necessarily bad - rather it enhances the utility but at the expense of the volume of reading required.
Also - since the field of neuroscience is rather new, and we as a species have only recently started gaining an understanding of brain function, supporting everything with hard data can be difficult. Nevertheless - the author does an excellent job at explaining the connection between behavior and the events that take place in our conscious, and unconscious. Some readers may find that rather troubling, and that is understandable. Further - as alluded to by the author - hard data is not that objective after all.
If you are looking for simple cookie cutter answers that will quickly jump out at you - look elsewhere. If you are willing to invest the time to read, digest, and reflect - it will reward you in many ways.
Zaltman explains how new brain science research indicates that the confidence marketers have placed in focus group methodology has been based on a number false assumptions including the following: 1. Consumers think in well-reason, linear ways to evaluate products and services. 2. Consumers can reasonably explain their emotions, feeling, preferences and behaviors - and translate them into words; and 3. Consumers' memories are accurate reflections of their experience.
According to Zaltman, the reality for consumers is really quite different. We live in a world where culture, emotions and desires play a larger role than logical decision-making. We receive and interpret information from the marketplace within a unique context. And, as consumers, much of our thinking takes place on a subconscious level, making it difficult for focus group participants to explain their behaviors. Our memories of what led us to make specific choices are far from perfect. On a conscious level we typically rationalize our decision-making without giving the underlying contextual complexities for our product and service choices.
In summary, Zaltman's text is a great place to learn more about current thinking on the mind of the consumer, the limits of traditional focus groups and some reliable methods for tapping into consumer insights.
Most recent customer reviews
currently a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School and a fellow at...Read more
I was interested in this book because it talks a lot about understanding how and why...Read more