Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique
Our patented research method centers around metaphors: the tendency for humans to interpret new experiences using pre-existing mental models. ZMET® is the expression of that philosophy: a unique and adaptable interview format that illuminates people's deepest thoughts and feelings—both conscious and unconscious. These deep insights drive true consumer understanding to inform better strategic thinking for branding, positioning, and innovation.
"A LOT GOES ON IN OUR MINDS THAT WE'RE NOT AWARE OF. WE NEED NEW TECHNIQUES TO GET AT HIDDEN KNOWLEDGE—WHAT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THEY KNOW."
How ZMET Works
Participants collect a handful of images representing their thoughts and feelings about a particular topic.
Each participant is interviewed for up to two hours, using their images as a jumping-off point for discussion.
Our trained, licensed ZMET® experts analyze the interviews for surface-level and Deep Metaphors™ and distill them to reveal key insights.
Jerry Zaltman began thinking about the power of using imagery in research while in Nepal in 1990. He gave local residents disposable cameras and asked them to take pictures that explain village life.
When he analyzed the images, he noticed that in nearly all of them, the subjects’ feet were either cut off or obscured. Later, he learned that bare feet and old shoes were a symbol of poverty, which villagers unconsciously chose to hide when they snapped their photos.
The imagery revealed ideas that would have been difficult to put into words. This insight spawned an entirely new field of research: the use of imagery to facilitate deep probing into people's true thoughts and feelings. ZMET® forms the foundation of this research, and continues to inform new approaches within Olson Zaltman and in the industry at large.