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How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market Hardcover – 1 Feb 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business School Press (1 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578518261
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578518265
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 16.5 x 25.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 382,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jerry Zaltman is a Professor of Marketing at Harvard Business School and a fellow at Harvard University's interdisciplinary Mind, Brain, Behavior Initiative.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
"AFTER YEARS OF RESEARCH and development, a consumer-goods company launches a new soft drink-only to see it dry up in the marketplace." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Jun. 2004
Format: Hardcover
Few would have any argument with the central thesis of this book. Most new products fail rapidly in unexpected ways, suggesting that a misunderstanding of what is required by customers is part of the problem. Professor Zaltman goes on to suggest that his patented approach to considering more aspects of customer thinking (especially emotion, associations and context) can help improve matters.
The book argues successfully that most marketing research methods are misused (usually by being applied to solve the wrong class of problem). He also does a fine job of explaining how marketers' attitudes and opinions create myopia that prevents them from learning what they need to know.
There is extensive material in the book about how the brain works in the context of purchasing decisions. For those who are familiar with brain research, there is little new here.
As someone who has worked in marketing research for over 30 years, I found the explanation of how to do better to be abstract and often counter to my own experience with extensive one-on-one open-ended interviews. Let me share a few examples. First, he states that consensus maps (a graphic expression of the universal considerations and order that consumers go through to make a purchasing decision) of how consumers think almost always emerge after 10 interviews . . . far short of statistical norms. That finding made me wonder if the maps are done too abstractly to capture the richness of customer thinking. Second, all of the examples of specific brands seemed to relate to an adult making a decision with the item in front of her or him. Yet, many consumers arrive at the grocery store (for example, since much of the book is about food products) with a shopping list in hand.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Sept. 2005
Format: Hardcover
In recent months, I have read a number of excellent books on the general subject of marketing or on the more specific subject of branding/brand management. I think each of them would be invaluable, not only to those entrusted with marketing responsibilities but to all other decision-makers within any organization, regardless of size of nature. For example, Jeff Fox's How to Become a Marketing Superstar and Seth Godin's Purple Cow.
This book is certainly outstanding but I recommend it only to those who are (a) corporate marketing managers, (b) principals, account supervisors, and account managers in advertising agencies, and (c) students enrolled in MBA programs, preferably if read in combination with Joseph Murphy's The Powers of Your Subconscious Mind. Zaltman makes significant demands on his reader as he explores with meticulous care how all people (not only customers) function both on the conscious and subconscious level. He identifies and applies a number of key terms such as cognitive unconscious, metaphor elicitation, response latency, and neuroimagining. He explains the Metaphor-Elicitation process, how to use a Consensus Map, and memory's "fragile power." For me, some of the most interesting and most valuable material is provided in Chapter Nine ("Memory, Metaphor, and Stories") and Chapter Ten ("Stories and Brands"), in part because I am especially interested in organizational symbols, rituals, and traditions. Zaltman shifts his and his reader's attention to "Crowbars for Creative Thinking" (a terrific chapter title) following by the final two chapters in which he (somehow) reviews and then integrates all of his key concepts while explaining how and why "Quality Questions Beget Quality Answers" and how to launch a "New Mind-Set.
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Format: Hardcover
You're probably already aware that we consciously use perhaps five per cent of our mind's capability - and a lot of important stuff is happening in the other 95 per cent! But if, like me, you're working in the world of 'influencing skills', it's easy to forget that this idea is still regarded as quite new in business, even within the context of marketing and advertising.

Gerald Zaltman's book not only highlights the importance of the unconscious system in buying decisions, but also the relevance of eliciting customers' personal metaphors in order to understand their behaviour.

Zaltman has his own patented system for this elicitation, while I use the 'open source' Clean Language (see Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds), but the end result can be the same: the natural imagery and metaphors of the unconscious are used to draw out valuable information from customers, which can then be used in a wide variety of business contexts.
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I see that several of the reviews are quite critical. I agree that this is a solid read. Too many business and marketing books have barely one or two real ideas and are written to be very easily digested. Zaltman's ambition, which I think he succeeds in, is to be more thorough and challenging. I know quite a bit about this subject (being both a professor and a researcher), but still learned useful new ideas, which are influencing my approach. In particular, I like his approach to consensus maps as well as the basic 'philosophy' based on relatively recent developments in cognitive science about the role of emotions. If you want to be provoked I thoroughly recommend it.
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