- Hardcover: 323 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business School Press; 1 edition (February 21, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1578518261
- ISBN-13: 978-1578518265
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #548,118 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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From Publishers Weekly
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
Top customer reviews
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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.
FULL REVIEW: It is a fantasy that many of us have experienced at some time in either our personal or professional lives: being able to peer inside someone else's mind to learn what exactly that person is thinking. The ability to understand another person's thinking, and the reasons for the thought process, has an enormous potential to reduce the friction inherent in human interactions. Imagine how it would reduce communications friction between you and your significant other if you could know exactly what your partner wants, and exactly why he/she wants it. With this information we could tailor our communications and interactions so that both parties get what they want and both are satisfied with the process.
Marketing, in essence, is about understanding the needs of a group of people called a market, creating a valuable solution to address the market's needs, communicating the differentiate value you have created, and pricing it in such a way as to induce a transaction where both parties are satisfied.
Zaltman helps us peer into the mind of the market in this very significant book, "How Customers Think." He tells us how people think from a neurological level. In very understandable language the author explains how a customer's buying decision is influenced by the complex interactions between mind, brain, body, and society. We also learn how the minds of marketers can distort their perceptions of customer's responses. It becomes clear that not only do we need to understand how customers think, but how we as marketers think.
In this book we learn some important facts about buyers and their thinking:
1. Consumers don't think in well-reasoned, linear ways.
2. Consumers cannot plausibly explain their thinking and behavior (because 95% of our thinking takes place in our unconscious).
3. Consumer's mind, brains, bodies, and culture can only be studied in relation to each other.
4. Consumer's memories may not accurately reflect their experience and those memories can change over time.
5. Consumers do not think primarily in words. The unconscious mind reveals itself as metaphors (similes, analogies, allegories, personifications, and proverbs).
6. Customers rarely can absorb a company message and interpret it correctly. They constantly reinterpret these messages in terms of their own unique experiences.
If consumers don't think in linear ways, 95% of their mental processing is unconscious, their memories are malleable, they don't think in words, and they reinterpret our marketing messages, how are we to understand them? Zaltman recommends the technique of metaphor elicitation to uncover and understand consumer wants and needs. This technique encourages consumers to use metaphors in talking about companies, brands, products, needs, etc.
A metaphor is a figurative language, referring to the representation of one thing in terms of another. The author reports that by one estimate, we employ nearly six metaphors per minute of spoken language. Why? Because they facilitate the making of connections, helping us understand the world that surrounds us.
Need an example of using a metaphor to communicate an abstract concept? Most people have never tasted frogs' legs, but they have an idea of what they taste like because they have been told they taste like chicken.
You will have to read the book to learn more about metaphor elicitation and how to use the data to more effectively market to your target segments. Or, to use a metaphor, Zaltman's book will be the key to unlocking the treasure chest of new information on communicating with your target market.
Of course, nothing is perfect and How Customers Think is no exception. The part on consensus maps could have been expanded while the section titled "The 10 Crowbars for Creative Thinking" could have been left out and covered in a separate article. And it's not a "how-to" book that will give you steps by step instructions for metaphor elicitation. Nor should it be, this book is an excellent introduction to an important and complex new marketing tool.
Bottom line: An excellent book with brilliant insight. It left me breathless as new and useful insights were revealed on almost every page. I was glued to the book as if it was a best selling mystery novel(Use of metaphors intentional!)
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currently a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School and a fellow at...Read more