IIeX North America 2019 Podcast Series

IIeX NA 2019 Conference Series – Hannibal Brooks – Olson Zaltman

Welcome to the 2019 IIEX North America Conference Series. Recorded live in Austin, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Hannibal Brooks, Insight Associate at Olson Zaltman.

Contact Hannibal Online:


Olson Zaltman


Hannibal Brooks is the name of my guest; Olson Zaltman is the name of his company or the company that he works for.  Olson Zaltman is a founder of the System 1, or one involved in the System 1 framework, as I understand it. So, they’ve got a ton of pedigree and knowledge, deep understanding of consumer purchase behavior at a System 1 level, at a habitual-type level.  And they have a really interesting marketing research approach, which goes beyond just traditional research to reveal deeper insights. Enjoy.


I’m with Hannibal Brooks, which is the coolest name on the podcast in the history so far.  And he is with Olson…




Zaltman.  Thank you very much.  Sorry about that. So, we are live at IIeX, and I’m super excited to have you on the show.  


I’m super excited to be here.  


What do you think?


You know I have loved the presentations I’ve seen so far:  tons of new application for AI, market research, people getting into the quant of things.  I saw a really great presentation on the AI analysis of CPG packages that I thought was just great among other things.  Tons of great presentations.


So a lot of value.  Have you been to many market research conferences?  


No, this is my first one.


So, tell me a little bit about what you guys do.       


Yeah, so at Olson Zaltman, we’re all about understanding the unconscious mind.  A lot of people refer to it now as System 1, but our founder, Gerald Zaltman, or one of our co-founders, actually developed the concept and founded Harvard’s Mind of the Market Lab.  So that’s where these ideas were explored. He decided to do some consulting, patented our technique – the Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique – and ultimately became hugely popular.  So now we basically investigate the unconscious, and we look at a few different areas. One thing that’s kind of unique is… Laddering has definitely been popular, but really it’s using images and metaphors to explore the unconscious.  And a lot of that is also built around laddering. If you show someone a picture of a whale, you know you could give them huge scientific description or you can just show an image, and it’s, honestly, worth more than as 1,000 words. That sort of thing.             


So, talk to me a little bit more about laddering.


Right, so laddering is about looking at the attributes of a product first.  And so, that’s one thing that’s at the surface-level details, but, ultimately, getting from there through to emotional cues.  And so, you look at things like, “Here’s a product someone has.” “Here’s an attribute.” “Here are its functional benefits.” “Here are psycho-social benefits.”  “Here’s the emotion that it leads to.” And you, ultimately get to an identity. And all that takes place in a setting with three different factors. You have like the behavior; you have the mind; and you have the environment.  And those are three different things ‘cause, if you think about… Let’s say you’re buying a broom, right? From a mind perspective, you can say, “I’m a person who likes being clean. It’s time for me to do some cleaning.” So then you get a broom.  So that’s the mind. The behavioral side would be, “I was getting ready to clean up ‘cause I like cleaning up, and I noticed my broom was dirty. So I ordered a new one on Amazon.” And then the environmental side would be some like: You are on Amazon or some shopping place, browsing.  And then you’re like, “I was here browsing anyway. Now I see a broom, that’s something I like to do.” So, subtle differences ultimately, they can add up to something immense.


I think that’s really…  Early in my career, I did conjoint analysis.  Part of that process is taking a product and then, I call it degrading it, but I don’t mean that in a negative way.  It’s like separating it into a series or pieces of features, right, that you can then… and levels within those features, price being the obvious example:  low, medium, high price point, price being a feature of any product or service. When you’re thinking about something like this, how do you separate out the broom, like the pieces of the broom.  Is it always segregated in those three ways or do you take it down another level?


Well, one thing that we specialize in is, after we do our analyses…  So, lot of it is these in-depth, one-on-one interviews, these ZMET interviews we call them, using images.  So, a lot of companies now are starting to use images and understand the power of metaphor, but ours is about going levels deeper and building a complete story.  So, the way we break it up is we do the interviews; we break down products into these attributes. We do custom mind maps; we essentially build out all these various features and ladder up to the top level of connection.  If you look at some of the features that… If you look at a lot of things that we have today: why don’t I have my elbows resting on this table right now? A lot of people are like, “Oh, it’s because of something sailors did ‘cause sailors, when they would eat on decks, they would have their elbows resting on tables so patrons would be warned, “OK, when someone rests their elbows on the table, it means they’re going to be aggressive at the table.”  But that’s not actually the origin: it’s because it’s a naturally defensive position; so, it actually has origins going like thousands of years back. So, ultimately, you have to do a deep dive in customer’s minds to understand the underlying factors that lead to their behaviors.


I love that example.  My good friend, Gordon Hall, is a…  He was Mr. California back in the day.  So he’s super like buff, right? And when he eats, I always laugh at him.  I say, “Dude, it’s like you’re in prison.” he puts his elbows… He literally protects his food.  It’s so funny. Like somebody is going to want to eat his food. “Gordon, nobody’s going to eat your food.  Calm down.” So, anyway… I can’t wait to share this episode with him. So, you guys have been around awhile.  


We have.


And have you had much presence inside of the market research community at trade shows?  


You know we had a bigger presence in the past.  We went dark for a while because we have a couple of books out now that have been pretty popular.  Caught some referral business from that. But now we’re making more of a venture into the conferences, getting more involved in that space.  So, I’m actually here giving a presentation on the new speaker circuit.


Oh, I can’t wait to hear that.  What time is that today?


It’s at 10:40.


10:40. Now, will you be publishing the talk on social media, LinkedIn?


I hope so.  Yes.


Cool.  Presentations, that kind of thing.  I tell you what. When you come up with pillar content like that… I’m not sure if they video it or not, but if you don’t have somebody videoing it, you should try to get someone to do it.  Then breaking that up into a short series of maybe five posts at 60 seconds a piece on LinkedIn, and then with some long-form blog with using… I don’t know if you’re familiar; LinkedIn had purchased SlideShare and it’s a great way to get additional visibility on your content by just taking your long-form content, converting it into a PowerPoint presentation, which you already have done, right?  




And then posting that on SlideShare.  It’s a really effective way to be able to punch through on LinkedIn, get visibility on your content, your company’s value prop and help customers and the community at large find you.  


That sounds great.  I’ll definitely take that in.


Totally, totally.  So, Olson Zaltman.


You got it.  Some people call us OZ for short.


Oh, I like OZ so much better.  Thank you. It’s also early in the morning, and this is Day 3 for me, which…


I see you got the coffee in front of you, so…  


First cup.  Where’d you stay?  Did you stay in the conference hotel?  


Yeah, I’m just a couple of minutes away in the building.


Lucky guy. Anything really interesting at the show so far from an exhibit perspective?  


Well, I saw a couple of the startups had really interesting ideas.  One of them I loved was the service that allows you to essentially just enter information, maybe two different concepts.  It will automatically generate a survey, compare all of that, get all that data, and then generate like a 50-, 60-slide deck, broken up by all these different attributes, brands, all that.  So, great stuff.


Do you remember who that was?


The name has deserted me right now.  Soon as I look at the card, I’ll remember it.




It was a really good one.  I voted for it.


Did you?  Awesome. When I post this episode in a couple weeks, it’d be great if you could just like post that company’s name.


You got it.


Link to that name, and then I’ll make sure I include them in our tech corner.  So, I appreciate that lead.


That sounds good.


Awesome.  Hey, Hannibal, thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.  


Super happy to be here, and thanks for the opportunity.  


I look forward to what you’re going to continue to kick-ass and do in your career.  It’s going to be a fun time.


I appreciate it.


Alright, my friend.


Thank you.