A star is born. Introducing ZMET, the real star of the new Morgan Spurlock movie

I’m not a film critic, and this is not a film review although I will be referring to a new film. A film that, when it is panned by the press and ignored by the brands it set out to attract, even I start to question whether it is worth the admission fee. However, I am a fan of the unordinary and truly believe every experience presents learning if you look deep enough (which is how I justify Rik Mayall’s ‘Drop Dead Fred’ in my DVD collection incidentally). So I decided to watch Morgan Spurlock’s latest outing, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

And once again, I’ve been rewarded. I did find something of significance, quite unexpectedly, in an otherwise bearable film (Sorry Morgan. There are a few amusing interviews, but not much more). As a production, it’s a simple concept which should have stayed as the unfulfilled pub bet from where it was no doubt spawned.

However, Mr S loves blurring brand extremes with mainstream everyday life and to his credit has managed to get a film production into our cinemas, through ‘corporate underwriting’ alone. So it doesn’t even matter if the crowds don’t flock to it since he’s paid for it with the sponsor’s money already. What was the point of it then?

As a yet to be discovered screen writer (classic ex-planner), I take my hat off to him. He is there, I am not. But like a Man City fan must feel about success, I can’t help thinking that how you get there is more important than just getting there.

So I won’t review it for its cinematic quality or depth of meaning, as I am sure that is not Spurlock’s criteria for a good film anyway. This very light entertainment outing makes a small point about the unhealthy importance of product placement in order to finance films, albeit in a pointless way.

BUT FORGET ALL THAT. Hidden in the film is an absolute gem, which is worth the admission fee alone; A ZMET interview. And that is what I want to bring your attention to.

What the @#&! I hear you say, a research interview?! No, it’s a ZMET interview. If you don’t know what ZMET is and you are in customer insight, shame on you. ZMET is growing in popularity and getting ahead of the curve on this one will only enhance CV’s later. If you have heard of it here’s your chance to see this powerful technique live at work in this film.

ZMET first entered ours lives at Lexden last year and it has left a permanent impression of what research findings can achieve for a brand. We get involved with research because, as a company, Lexden collaborate with clients to solve their marketing strategy challenges. And in my time that’s involved a whole lot of insight. In fact, I estimate I’ve been sitting behind the one way mirror at focus groups for nearly 20 years. Ouch. Should I even admit to that?

During that time my love affair with customer insight has put me behind the viewing glass, facilitating in front of the glass, recruiting the groups, buying the research, analysing the findings and interpreting their impact for clients’ businesses. I’ve been understanding what keeps people awake, what helps them to sleep, uncovering what makes them do what they do, knowing what prevents them doing what we want them to do, identifying what they love about a brand and concluding why they hate a brand. I’ve seen research from business owners in Rome to parents in Istanbul; from gamblers in Glasgow to sports stars in Surrey.

But, like an insight junkie, I think I’d become a little numb to many research techniques. They all do their job, but I guess I needed a new high. In my qualified opinion this ZMET stuff is the powerful hit I’d been seeking. In marketing terms, it’s the most effective approach I have found to answer the big question; “why are we emotionally motivated to do what we do?” Think about it, you often want the ‘why’ but end up with the no more than the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ or at best rational attitudinal presumptions coaxed out of consumers, rather than emotional life goals.

We had the good fortune to work with BDRC (who are the only qualified agency in the UK to conduct ZMET) on a soul seeking ZMET study for a financial services brand. We managed to get a deeper understanding of the real drivers of choice for their audiences than had been achieved before. And by translating these findings into language the client understood (that’s where Lexden came in), we were able to exploit them against areas such as customer strategies, commercial imperatives and create new opportunities previously unseen. The true potential was unlocked.

So we had a powerful emotional insight tool with findings transferable across various areas of their business; segment understanding, brand positioning, proposition development, channel marketing, communications and more. Such is the versatility of the ZMET technique and the strength of the BDRC researchers.

If great insight is like a bright light bulb being switched on, ZMET is like Regent Street at Christmas time.

In the Spurlock film, Morgan asks to get ZMETTED (I am sure it will catch on as a verb) to understand what his own brand is about. When you see it, try to visualise beyond the interview in terms of its potential. A bit like when you view a house to buy and have to see the potential of the bedroom beyond the aubergine and lime paisley wallpaper the owners are so proud of; you need to imagine how you’d use it in your business.

If you are into insight, get interested in this technique.  It’s being used more here, in the US and the Far East. But one piece of advice; be brave. It’s not conventional. You need to see the bigger picture before getting tied up in the detail of how you change what you’ve always believed in. Traditional thinking about how research works or is applied will limit the potential application of ZMET.

Oh and one more piece of advice; if you want to catch a Morgan Spurlock film, rent SupersizeMe.

There’s a demo on how ZMET works here http://www.bdrc-continental.com/zmet/

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Lexden.

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands. For more information on how we can help you contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on  T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123. And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

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