Thursday, September 28, 2006

Gerald Zaltman Keynote at the Consumer Engagement Confernce

These are on-the-fly notes at the Consumer Engagement Conference; Keynote: Gerald Zaltman, Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School:

What is a mind? The short hand answer, among cognitive psychologists: the mind is what the brain does. That makes the mind the most intensively used, versatile organ. It’s the most complex and least understood, although we do know a great deal about it. Turning it on is a challenge. But turning on a mind is central to engagement.

I stress a few basic qualities of mine, using devices that will engage more.When turning on a mind, I mean occupying it with a particular concept or thought.

Case studies:

  • Children in kindergarten or first or second grade, if you want to teach a unit of geography, the way you design that unit and its success depends on whether kids know the world is round or flat. Second graders think world is round, but if you prove further, you begin to learn that almost all of those children think the world is round like a pancake, not round like a tennis ball. It makes a big difference.
  • A simple riddle: There’s a man at home, and another man coming home. The man at home is wearing a mask. It takes a while before people come up with the answer, a ballgame. The primary thought that is triggered by home is a residence, a robbery. Riddles and games are based on assumption. Even ambiguous words… “prostitutes appeal to pope”…means different things in Enquirer versus Boston Globe.

The point is that frames are essential to how we process information. We always see something from somewhere, and it’s essential that we conduct necessary research to understand where the somewhere is when we’re thinking about brand ideas and context. It’s impossible to turn on a mind without activating a frame. Frames are deep, like emotions, they’re unconscious, automatic and very powerful. They are like metaphors. They’re co-equal in importance with emotions, play stage in which emotions act out their roles. The labels for common deep metaphors are: journey transformation, balance, control, and so fourth. They influence what we attend to, how information is internalized, how processed…what, if anything we do, its consequence.

Case study

  • Two groups of people exposed to identical film…two automobiles banging into each other. First group asked to list everything that occurred in accident just viewed. Second group is asked to list everything in crash they just witnessed. First group “accident” seldom mentioned broken glass; second group mentioned it far more. When there’s not glass broken, lots of “crash” people still report broken glass.

Advertising has the impact or potential to alter memories. Our memories are malleable. They’re constantly changing, adding and taking things away. When a mind is turned on, it becomes inventive, imaginative to the past events for which it uses to process current exposures.

Our minds are extremely inventive. Not just with respect to memory, but with respect to ongoing events. Minds are always imagining. The frames we use are very powerful in determining what we add and take away from and experience.

Deep metaphors (frames) are the somewhere from which we see or experience evenets. They influence how consumers re-present ad content to themselves. They shape imaginations.

We imagine or re-create the past by adding and subtracting .information.

We exercise imagination s we experienced present events, again by adding and subtracting information.

Our consumption visions concerning future product or service encounters are an imaginative conceptual blending of the past and present including advertising.

What are design principles to turn on a mind? Most of our ideas seldom reach conscious thought. They usually do so only after they’ve done their job. Here are key components:

  • Exposure
  • Distinctiveness
  • Personal Relevance and Active Involvement
  • Availability of Concepts
  • Story-Telling Capacity
  • Mood State congruence
  • Emotional Content


Anonymous Angelo Fernando said...

I believe there's a lot of work to be done on understanding mental engagement --as opposed to the physical kind. I like your reference to children and education. If you go back to the roots of the Montessori method, you'll find that it's all based on engaging the mind in the pre-computer age. They teach vocabulary, math, geography etc through a combination of interactive devices and socialization. (Full disclosure here: My wife is a Montessori teacher!)

The point is, when applying engagement to brands, we need to recognize that merely clicking on something or inviting consumer generated content is not going to create lasting experiences. The consumer needs to participate in the experience beyond clickthroughs. There may be no metrics for experiences --yet-- but it's time to stop measuring things just because we can measure them.

10:51 AM  

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