Gerald Zaltman

Emeritus Professor

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*Joined Harvard Faculty: 1991
Prior Faculty Appointments: Northwestern University, 1968-75;
University of Pittsburgh, 1975-91

*Doctoral Degree in Sociology Received from: The John Hopkins University;
MBA Degree Received from: The University of Chicago; AB Degree Received from: Bates College

Gerald Zaltman is the Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and a former member of the Executive Committee of Harvard University's Mind, Brain, and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative.  He was previously Co-Director of The Mind of the Market Laboratory at HBS.  He is a co-founder and senior partner in the research based consulting firm of Olson Zaltman Associates whose clients include some of the world’s most respected firms and brands.  Professor Zaltman holds a Ph.D in sociology from The Johns Hopkins University, an M.B.A from the University of Chicago, and an A.B. in government from Bates College.  Professor Zaltman held positions at Northwestern University and the University of Pittsburgh before joining Harvard University in 1991.

His research interests focus on customer behavior and marketing strategy.  His book, How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market (2003) has been translated into 15 languages.  It has received several awards and has ranked among the top five selling business books in North America and Europe. His newest book, co-authored with Lindsay Zaltman, is Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers (2008).  This book addresses the deep metaphors or unconscious frames people use that influence their thinking and behavior. 

Professor Zaltman’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Fortune Magazine, Forbes, US News & World Report, Time, Fast Company Magazine, American Demographics, and other major publications.  Professor Zaltman is a consultant to corporations around the globe and frequent keynote speaker at major conferences.  He holds three patents for market research tools including the patent on the use of neuroimaging in marketing.  Another patent, ZMET, is used around the world by major firms and international agencies.  It has been described by several writers as the most significant innovation in market research in more than two decades.

Professor Zaltman has authored numerous books in the areas of social change, marketing, and the use of knowledge and has published widely in the major journals in marketing and the social sciences. He is a current or past member of the editorial boards of numerous journals in marketing and the social sciences.  He is a past President of the Association for Consumer Research. 

His awards include the American Marketing Association's Richard D. Irwin Distinguished Marketing Educator Award in 1989, The Association for Consumer Research Distinguished Fellow Award in 1990, the Knowledge Utilization Society's Thomas J. Kiresuk Award for Excellence in Scientific Research in 1992, the JAI Press Distinguished Scholar Award from the Society for Marketing Advances in 2000, the ARF Member Recognition Award in 2007, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Buck Weaver Award sponsored by General Motors in 2008 for outstanding work in bringing knowledge and practice together.

Gerald Zaltman has been named an American Marketing Association Fellow.  The distinction of AMA Fellow is given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the research, theory and practice of marketing, and to the service and activities of the AMA over a prolonged period of time.  

In October 2015 Gerald Zaltman will be the fourth recipient of the Sheth Foundation Gold Medal for Exceptional Contributions to Marketing Scholarship and Practice. The award recognizes Jerry’s enduring and transformational contributions to marketing scholarship.

Featured Work



  1. Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal About the Minds of Consumers

    Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman

    Why do advertising campaigns and new products often fail? Why do consumers feel that companies don't understand their needs? Because marketers themselves don't think deeply about consumers' innermost thoughts and feelings. Marketing Metaphoria is a groundbreaking book that reveals how to overcome this "deficit" and find the universal drivers of human behavior so vital to a firm's success. Marketing Metaphoria reveals the powerful unconscious viewing lenses—called "deep metaphors"—that shape what people think, hear, say, and do. Drawing on thousands of one-on-one interviews in more than thirty countries, Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman describe how some of the world's most successful companies as well as small firms, not-for-profits, and social enterprises have successfully leveraged deep metaphors to solve a wide variety of marketing problems. Marketing Metaphoria should convince you that everything consumers think and do is influenced at unconscious levels—and it will give you access to those deeper levels of thinking.

    Keywords: Advertising Campaigns; Nonverbal Communication; Customer Satisfaction; Books; Marketing Strategy; Product Launch; Consumer Behavior; Failure; Nonprofit Organizations; Behavior; Emotions;


    Zaltman, Gerald, and Lindsay Zaltman. Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal About the Minds of Consumers. Harvard Business School Press, 2008. View Details

Journal Articles

  1. Relationships between Providers and Users of Market Research: The Dynamics of Trust within and between Organizations

    C Moorman, G. Zaltman and Rohit Deshpandé

    Keywords: Markets; Research; Relationships; Trust; Organizations;


    Moorman, C., G. Zaltman, and Rohit Deshpandé. "Relationships between Providers and Users of Market Research: The Dynamics of Trust within and between Organizations." Journal of Marketing Research (JMR) 29, no. 3 (August 1992): 314–28. View Details

Book Chapters

  1. What Do 'Really Good' Managers and 'Really Good' Researchers Want of One Another?

    Lindsay H. Zaltman and Gerald Zaltman

    Keywords: Management; Research;


    Zaltman, Lindsay H., and Gerald Zaltman. "What Do 'Really Good' Managers and 'Really Good' Researchers Want of One Another?" In The Handbook of Marketing Research: Uses, Misuses, and Future Advances, edited by Rajiv Grover and Marco Vriens. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006. View Details
  2. Rooting Marketing Strategy in Human Universals

    Luc Wathieu, Yu Ivory Liu and Gerald Zaltman

    Keywords: Marketing Strategy; Human Needs;


    Wathieu, Luc, Yu Ivory Liu, and Gerald Zaltman. "Rooting Marketing Strategy in Human Universals." Chap. 4 in The Global Market: Developing a Strategy to Manage Across Borders, edited by John A. Quelch and Rohit Deshpandé. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004. View Details
  3. The Power of Metaphor

    G. Zaltman and Robin Coulter


    Zaltman, G., and Robin Coulter. "The Power of Metaphor." In The Why of Consumption: Contemporary Perspectives on Consumer Motives, Goals and Desires, edited by S. Ratneshwar, David Glen Mick, and Cynthia Huffman. London, New York: Routledge, 2001. View Details
  4. Seeing through the Customer's Eyes with Computer Imaging

    G. Zaltman and L. J. Schuck

    Keywords: Technology; Perception; Customers; Computer Industry;


    Zaltman, G., and L. J. Schuck. "Seeing through the Customer's Eyes with Computer Imaging." In Sense and Respond: Capturing Value in the Network Era, edited by Stephen P. Bradley and Richard L. Nolan. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1998. View Details

Cases and Teaching Materials

  1. Implicit Predictors of Consumer Behavior

    Gerald Zaltman, Nancy Puccinelli, Kathryn A. Braun and Fred W Mast PHD

    An important distinction is drawn in psychology between explicit and implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge refers to consciously held beliefs about an individual or object that often draws on the remembering of experiences in the past. In contrast, implicit knowledge refers to the cognitive associations a consumer holds between two constructs that exist outside his or her conscious awareness. Although it is possible that explicit and implicit knowledge correspond, the exciting opportunity for marketers is that often there is a discrepancy; that is, what a consumer believes explicitly may have no bearing on his or her actual behavior.

    Keywords: Forecasting and Prediction; Values and Beliefs; Knowledge Sharing; Consumer Behavior; Opportunities; Cognition and Thinking;


    Zaltman, Gerald, Nancy Puccinelli, Kathryn A. Braun, and Fred W Mast PHD. "Implicit Predictors of Consumer Behavior." Harvard Business School Background Note 502-043, October 2001. (Revised March 2002.) View Details
  2. Strategic Use of Music in Marketing, The: A Selective Review

    Gerald Zaltman and Nancy Puccinelli

    Summarizes selected research on music and its impact on mood and shopping behavior, and its impact on the communication of ideas.

    Keywords: Communication Intention and Meaning; Music Entertainment; Marketing Strategy; Consumer Behavior; Behavior;


    Zaltman, Gerald, and Nancy Puccinelli. "Strategic Use of Music in Marketing, The: A Selective Review." Harvard Business School Background Note 501-056, December 2000. (Revised March 2001.) View Details
  3. Dimensions of Brand Equity for Nestle Crunch Bar, The: A Research Case

    Gerald Zaltman

    An in-depth study of consumer thoughts and feelings about a branded candy bar.

    Keywords: Customer Satisfaction; Brands and Branding; Consumer Behavior; Mathematical Methods; Food and Beverage Industry;


    Zaltman, Gerald. "Dimensions of Brand Equity for Nestle Crunch Bar, The: A Research Case." Harvard Business School Case 500-083, January 2000. View Details
  4. Human Element in Marketing Strategy,The: A Look at the Creative and Subjective Side

    Das Narayandas and Gerald Zaltman

    Explores the human element in formulating marketing strategy. A rewritten version of an earlier note. Includes color exhibits.

    Keywords: Employees; Marketing Strategy; Creativity; Perspective;


    Narayandas, Das, and Gerald Zaltman. "Human Element in Marketing Strategy,The: A Look at the Creative and Subjective Side." Harvard Business School Case 598-105, February 1998. View Details
  5. Note on Customer Behavior

    Gerald Zaltman

    A review of selected key concepts that are useful for understanding customers. The importance of understanding customers is also discussed, along with a short description of new frontiers in the study of customer behavior.

    Keywords: Knowledge; Marketing; Consumer Behavior;


    Zaltman, Gerald. "Note on Customer Behavior." Harvard Business School Background Note 597-057, March 1997. View Details


Other Publications and Materials

    Research Summary

  1. Background

    by Gerald Zaltman

    A major theme underlying most of Gerald Zaltman's research concerns the representation of thought. This includes how managers and customers represent their thinking to others and how they represent ideas and knowledge given to them. This theme finds expression in a number of projects. A major underlying methodology for many of these projects involves the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique a unique, multidisciplinary based research tool now being used by major firms and leading academic researchers. (See ZMET Home Page).
  2. How Executives and Artists Approach Ill-Structured Problems

    by Gerald Zaltman

    An ill-structured problem is one which is not routine, has no obvious best answer, and even the nature of the problem may be unclear. Ill-structured problems tend to be particularly significant when they arise. Using ZMET, this research investigates how experienced executives and novices approach this important task. A companion study concerns how artists visualize approaches to their work which also tends to be ill-structured. It is expected that accomplished visual artists may address ill-structured tasks in ways that provide useful insights for managers.
  3. Seeing Thought

    by Gerald Zaltman

    This program of research combines the results from ZMET studies to create marketing stimuli such as advertising, retail store designs, product concepts, product design, and so forth, which are then presented to a sample of consumers whose reactions are observed using various brain imaging technologies. These techniques for measuring brain activity in response to marketing stimuli based on deep understanding of the consumer have great promise in detecting significant responses that go undetected and/or are misrepresented by existing market research methods. Gerald Zaltman is working with Professor Stephen M. Kosslyn, The Department of Psychology, Harvard University and the Mass. General Hospital.
  4. The Ownership of Deep Metaphors

    by Gerald Zaltman

    Deep metaphors are basic orienting structures of human thought. They guide in subtle and overt ways how customers and managers process information about any product, service, or activity and event. It is essential for a firm to understand deep metaphors as they are experienced in particular product markets and to know how to gain ownership of them. Gaining ownership refers to the process whereby consumers or other stakeholders automatically associate a particular deep metaphor with a brand and do so in such a way that any competitor invoking this deep metaphor unavoidably makes the 'owning' firm's brand salient.