09 May 2008
New Book Looks at Deep Metaphors and the Minds of Consumers
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Professor Emeritus
Gerald Zaltman

BOSTON — Why do advertising campaigns and new products fail? Why do consumers often feel that companies do not understand their needs? It seems that marketers don't always think deeply about consumers' thoughts and feelings. Marketing Metaphoria, coauthored by HBS Professor Emeritus Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman, managing director of Olson Zaltman Associates, reveals how to overcome this "depth deficit" and find the universal drivers of human behavior that are vital to a company's ability to connect successfully with consumers.

Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers (Harvard Business Press) delves into the mind of the consumer to reveal the unconscious viewing lenses that shape what people think, hear, say, and do. These lenses, which the authors call "deep metaphors," populate the unconscious mind. According to the Zaltmans, understanding how people use these deep metaphors helps companies develop new products, launch innovations, enhance purchase and consumption experiences, and create engaging communication.

Drawing on thousands of one-on-one interviews, the authors identify seven primary deep metaphors. According to their research, there are seven deep metaphors that have the most universality among customers:

  • balance,
  • transformation
  • journey
  • container
  • connection
  • resource
  • control

By understanding these metaphor "giants," marketers can have a direct effect on sales and profits. Marketing Metaphoria describes how actual organizations - large corporations, small firms, and social enterprises - have successfully leveraged deep metaphors to solve their marketing problems. "An imaginative and insightful application of cognitive science to the world of business, rich with implications for both fields," said Harvard University psychology professor Steven Pinker.

"Despite the availability of increasingly sophisticated methods, most customer relationships remain standardized, superficial, and lacking in informed customization," said former HBS Profssor Gary Loveman, now chairman, CEO, and president of Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. "Through deep metaphors, the Zaltmans provide an insightful and provocative framework for identifying and learning from the implicit cognitive influences on customer decision making that can enhance and deepen intimacy and loyalty."

About the Authors
Gerald Zaltman is the Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration Emeritus at Harvard Business School and a former member of the Executive Committee of Harvard University's Mind, Brain, and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. He was previously codirector of The Mind of the Market Laboratory at HBS. He is a cofounder and senior partner in the research based consulting firm of Olson Zaltman Associates. 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. He held positions at Northwestern University and the University of Pittsburgh before joining Harvard Business School in 1991.His book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market (2003) has been translated into 15 languages.

Lindsay Zaltman is Managing Director of Olson Zaltman Associates. In addition to his roles in new business development and client management, he has successfully spearheaded global positioning, brand and new product innovation work for companies across all business sectors. He has extensive experience in the advertising and communications field. Zaltman is coauthor of a chapter on client-researcher relationships in The Handbook of Marketing Research.

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time​ programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 80 open enrollment Executive Education programs and more than 60 custom programs. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who have shaped the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.​​​​