Friday, 5 March 2010

What's a picture worth?

I love a good photo, don’t you? Recently, I ran across some research that provided some insight on why we are drawn to images. Gerald Zaltman is the author and editor of 20 books, most recently How Customers Think (2003) and Marketing Metaphoria (2008). In 1997, he founded a market research consulting firm that patented the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET), a method used to delve into the subconscious thinking that drives behavior. ZMET was born during a trip Zaltman took to Nepal in 1990. He gave cameras to locals who had never taken photos before and asked them to take pictures of important things and events in their lives. He returned two weeks later, gave copies of the photos to these newly-minted photographers, and interviewed them about the meaning of their photos. Zaltman then understood just how powerful the use of images was in gaining a thorough understanding of their meanings and beliefs. For example, Zaltman noted that the Nepalese photos often cut off the feet of people appearing in their images. It was discovered that this was deliberate, as the Nepalese did not want to embarrass their friends and neighbors by showing their bare feet - a sign of poverty.

Zaltman coined the term “Deep Metaphors” to describe the subconscious thoughts that affect how people process and react to information or visual stimuli. Deep Metaphors can be used in a marketing context to help marketers communicate more effectively to their customers about a brand, product, or topic that they're already using with the same theme. In Marketing Metaphoria, Zaltman outlines the most basic and most recurring Deep Metaphors: Journey, Balance, Container, Connection, Resource, Control and Transformation (and the less common Force and Paradox). This short video explains more.

It seems the meaning of any photograph lies less in its visual facts and more in what details are evoked inside the mind (and heart) of the viewer. What Zaltman’s Deep Metaphors are telling us is that we can accurately predict an intended response from the viewer. Supposedly, metaphors engage both the left and right sides of the viewer’s brain simultaneously, which means it makes a more impactful impression.

Which brings me to the point of my blog…..Are the photos in your publications, on your website, in your multimedia presentations and even in your workplace, sending the messages you want to convey? Many of us choose photos based on a color scheme, a layout style, or an aesthetic scene, but we might want to pay more attention to the implied meaning of the photo. When we better understand the mind of our customers, we can guide them to focus on and emotionally connect to visual metaphors in images when thinking about our brand, product or service, leading to successful buying practices. A picture then, is worth at least a thousand words.


Middle-Age White Guy said...

Not only is the photograph captivating, but the info. within this blog entry is quite interesting. I need to think about the pictures that I have on my various web-sites. I wonder what types of pic's might appeal best to people seeking the specific legal services which I offer. And, how would I determine that? Hmm...

Sunrise Global Solutions said...
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