The Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique (ZMET) is a patented market research tool. ZMET is a technique that elicits both conscious and especially unconscious thoughts by exploring people’s non-literal or metaphoric expressions.
It was developed by Dr. Gerald Zaltman at the Harvard Business School in the early 1990s. As Zaltman described it, “A lot goes on in our minds that we’re not aware of. Most of what influences what we say and do occurs below the level of awareness. That’s why we need new techniques: to get at hidden knowledge-to get at what people don’t know they know.” The technique has been used by academic researchers and for marketing purposes to study a variety of topics related to both marketing and the social sciences.
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.
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.