Choosing with Your Body

Customers compare all the time: they compare with the past (what things used to cost); they compare to the future (what things are going to cost in future) or they compare with other people (what other people buy). This comparing one thing to another is so ingrained, that it is embedded in everyday language without us even being aware of it. It is called a metaphor.

Neurons that fire together, wire together

When we say someone has a warm personality or a person is cold, we are using the ‘affection is warmth’ metaphor. This use of temperature as a metaphor makes sense when we consider, for example, that a child that is given a cherished hug by a parent experiences emotion together with warmth. In the child’s brain, neurons are activated simultaneously in two separate parts of the brain: emotions (e.g. amygdala, thalamus and hippocampus) and the area that registers temperature*. As they say: ‘neurons that fire together, wire together (the Hebbian principle). Consequently, there is a physical representation in the brain of the ‘Affection is Warmth’ metaphor (!)

Understanding the most significant experiences (of absence thereof) that people has had throughout their lives can help marketers enhance the presentation and design (visual, tactile, auditory and otherwise) of their products and services.

Gerald Zaltman, the well-known Harvard professor, has identified six themes of metaphors that have surfaced again and again: connection, container, control, journey, resource, and transformation. To find out more about the application of the Zaltman Metaphor Elecitation Technique, click here.


Further Reading and References

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