As a marketing strategist, Eunice works with clients to determine their marketing messages and positioning.  At SLA’s 2015 Annual Conference Eunice described how metaphors provide insights into what people think and feel about specific topics, images, situations, services and products. The essence of a metaphor is to understand one thing in terms of another thing.  Now you can hear her this week – July 17th – at Customer Service for Libraries at the iSchool (July 16th & 17th).

What took Eunice on this path? 23 years ago when she was working in a publishing firm where she was responsible for  moving products from print to online, Eunice commissioned market research and was frustrated that they never seemed to  get to the real thinking behind people’s purchasing decisions.  She decided to go into market research herself, and to pursue more innovative techniques.

Innerviews uses Zaltman’s Metaphor Elicitation Technique, an intensive interview process that uses photos to surface people’s thinking, emotions and attachment to brands and products. At SLA, Eunice explained that the interviews are conducted either in person, on the phone or online. Interviewees are asked to bring with them – or to select – pictures that represent the metaphor for the specific product or service for them. None of the photos have full faces, nor are they pre-assigned. The interviewer carefully prompts the conversation, catching and staying with the language of the respondent, and, with the respondent, discover what the person’s frame of thinking is regarding the brand or service. It’s not surprising for a respondent to say “I didn’t realize that I think that…..” .

Although the interviews are challenging, it’s the analysis and interpretation of the interview results that is the real heavy lifting. Innerviews uses a variety of taxonomies to code the interview transcripts. The final outcome of Eunice’s work is to strategically translate the results into insights regarding the customer experience, and how the client should convey the brand story. Understanding people’s “frames” or their thinking dramatically increases the ability of people to communicate with each other, the ability of organizations to communicate with their customers, and to effectively position their brands or services within their markets.

Eunice gave an overview of some completed projects:

A pharmaceutical company: needed to understand the different segments of general practitioners so they could tailor their sales & marketing strategies to the different segment; using the metaphorical they discovered 4 different segments including action heros – doctors who see themselves on the leading edge, saving their patients…to those who see themselves as engineers whose patients are problems to solve and who think about it in a linear way.  The messaging for these different markets is obviously very different.

A paper products company, in a very crowded marketplace; the company felt women were a huge market, and needed to understand women’s lives.  Innerviews’ interviews asked women to “to describe your life as a woman, pick an object (rather than a photo).  Some women selected “a purse – I stuff everyone’s worries into it & carry them around with me.” Other women selected “a gerber daisy –  representsmy vulnerability & strengths”.  These objects became the launching point for understanding their lives and launching marketing campaigns appealing to these triggers for women.

I’m fascinated by this technique, and I’ve know Eunice forever – and been honoured to work with her. She’s intelligent, driven and one of the most insightful research professional I’ve ever met. I can’t wait to hear her speak again this week – and to work with her to understand the emotional triggers people have regarding libraries!