Tag Archives: ZMET

Should have been a shoe in

It’s staggering how often we, as human beings and customers, do things and make decisions which do not seem to make sense yet, at a deeper more emotional level, just feel right to us.  Consider what I did yesterday.

At lunchtime I was walking down the road when I passed a well known, reasonably up market shoe shop chain.  I have needed a new pair of shoes for ages now but, being a bit fussy, I had not yet found the style and brand I wanted.  I really like my current pair but they are close to falling apart so it is getting about as urgent as buying shoes can ever be.

It was a bit of a scrum in the shop since they are in the middle of one of their seemingly quite regular sales.  However I saw a pair of Merrells that were pretty much what I have been after, albeit at full price.

When the pleasant, highly competent member of staff returned, however, she informed me that they did not have the size 8 which I required.  Disappointing.  “Not a problem though, sir.  We can order a pair in for you and if you don’t want them, you don’t have to buy them.”  Not ideal but, given how long I had been looking, perfectly acceptable.  She returned with a form to write my details on and said that the shoes should be in store in the following week.  We filled it out.

All good.  But then a surprise- she asked me for £20 as a deposit to make the order.  Her colleague chimed in with “it’s so we know you will come back for them”.

Hmm.  I told her I did not see why I needed to give the £20 at this point.  She said that was the only basis they could order it in and there was no way round it.  Before I knew it, I had smiled and walked out.  Despite the fact that I have been looking for that type of shoe for a couple of months.  Despite the fact that they could have sourced them for me within 7 days.  Despite the fact that I am still without a pair of shoes that I want to buy.  I still walked out.

As Star Trek’s Dr Spock would say to Kirk:  “Illogical, Captain”.

I have been giving it some thought.  What caused me to happily behave in this apparently irrational manner and for the retailer to lose a sale?  Because that is the commercial impact of what happened.  On reflection, I think there are two reasons:

  1. When they asked for £20, it took me completely by surprise.  Because they did not have my size, I had mentally attuned myself to the fact that I would be walking out of the door without a new pair of shoes and without having paid any money.  So when they asked for money, it threw me.  They had put up an obstacle to purchase-the opposite of the type of ‘nudge’ described in Thaler and Sunstein’s book which can influence our behaviours.  It gave me a reason to say no and back out.
  2. When they said ‘it’s so we know you will come back for them’ it annoyed me.   I felt that they had questioned my integrity and I really did not like it at quite a deep level.   I felt (as opposed to thought) offended that they were not taking the fact that I was in store, trying to buy their shoes, as commitment enough that I would come back the next week to buy them.  In myself, I know that paying over £20 would not make me more or less likely to come back later.

I think it is this second point which was the key driver for my behaviour.

Rationally, everything said to pay the £20, go back the following week, pick up the shoes and start using them.  But my own deeper feelings which surfaced via the comment overwhelmingly trumped rationality and I walked out.

And what of the commercial impact?  In amongst the heavy discounting of their sale, the shop lost a full price purchase because of something they did which made me feel not quite right.  I doubt whether the £20 they wanted is in any way material to them in terms of cashflow or paying suppliers.  And even if I did not come back, it feels that having a pair of size 8s in one of their regular product lines is pretty much business as usual for a shoe shop.  It is simply an internal process which has had an impact on one of their potential customers. I am not saying that the assistant could have known how I would react (I am not sure I did), nor that everyone would have reacted as I did.  I am just saying that their process directly contributed to a lost sale which was surely not their intention.

This kind of thing happens all the time.  Businesses put in processes, talk to customers in certain ways and offer products and services which people either do not connect with or, as in this case, actively push them away.  Sadly, it happens mainly because businesses just look at what is best for themselves rather than their customers.  But it also happens when businesses only look at a consumer’s rational motivations.  It happens when they fail to understand what is really driving the customer’s decision making, what it is that makes them tick and what type of activity will drive through into their hearts as opposed to their minds.

People simply do not make decisions on a purely rational basis.  In fact, people mostly make their decisions on a subconscious, emotional level.  There is a wealth of scientific evidence, thinking and cutting edge research techniques such as the Harvard originated ZMET, which we have used at Lexden, which helps businesses understand, at a deep level, why we all make the decisions we do.  This is where more of our customer research efforts need to focus if we want to develop products and services which will actually resonate with consumers.

In the meantime, sadly, I’ll be going out this lunchtime to look for those shoes.  But if feels right.


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 call us on T: +44 (0) 9768 316548.  And you can follow us on Facebook LinkedIn, or Twitter @consultingchris.

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.