Did the following story tell you something?

Once upon a time, I was walking in my hometown. I perceived a film poster. I stared at the name of the movie and I realised that I’ve never heard about it. I thought about watching it the same day before going back home. Then, thinking about it, I concluded that I couldn’t, as I’m not sure if I will like it or not and this will cost me time and money.

However, this, didn’t mean, that I wouldn’t watch it at all. Actually, what I needed at that time was to have more information about the movie to guess if I’m going to like it or not. So, I came back home, picked my laptop, open a search engine and searched for the movie.

Reading its synopsis, watching the trailer, peeking in the comments and the critics, checking its rating on IMDb website, asking friends, analysing its reviews… are all steps I moved through to make my decision. Then, I decided to watch it and went to the cinema to do so.

What marketing model this story hides?

I suppose that this story isn’t only mine. It’s a story that we all lived, live and will live. However, what is important about it is the fact that it sticks to all marketing steps, that are:

  • The stimulus: the moment the need is triggered,
  • The process of making the decision: the period necessary to collect data,
  • The shelf: the moment to decide whether to buy the product/service or not,
  • The experience: when you use the product/service.
Marketing concept torn newspaper headlines reading marketing, strategy, branding, advertising etc

Marketing concept torn newspaper headlines reading marketing, strategy, branding, advertising etc

These marketing steps are not matched only in the case of watching a movie in a cinema, but it arises each time we express a need. If we want to buy an electronic device, if we want to buy a company service (whether B2B or B2C …), if we want to eat in a restaurant, doing any activity or buying any product or service, we move through all these steps.

To what correspond these marketing steps?

In 2005, P&G performed a study on 5000 shoppers across 12 categories of business and figured out that the process of buying could be summarised in 3 marketing steps (the 3-step marketing model):

  • The Stimulus
  • The First Moment of Truth (Shelf)
  • The Second Moment of Truth (Experience)

marketing steps

The tradition 3-step mental model

Then, in 2011, Google came out with another distinct step; they called “Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)“.


What is ZMOT?

If we get back to the movie scenario stated above. We will automatically realise that the most crucial moment was while making the decision of watching the film. The most important moment occurred when I started collecting data about the movie and transforming that data to information.

This is exactly what is called “Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)”!


The new mental model

According to Mr Jim Lecinski, Managing Director of U.S Sales & Service at Google,

“ZMOT is a new decision-making moment that takes place a hundred million times a day on mobile phones, laptops and wired devices of all kinds. It’s a moment where marketing happens, where information happens, and where consumers make choices that affect the success and failure of nearly every brand in the world.”

Based on this definition and its compliance with our experiences. I may say that the greatness of the ZMOT resides on the fact that it supposes the existence of many sources of information. Indeed, ZMOT could occur in a real-time, through meeting with friends or relatives, through mobile devices or laptops, through websites, posters, blogs and articles, through comments, conversations and critics… It’s about a range of tools, parties and indicators that we engage every time we need to make a decision.

In addition to that, ZMOT not only serves to have the required information about the brand we’re dealing with to satisfy our needs. But, it also serves to find the right offer that presents the best quality with the lowest price in the most limited time.

In another words, ZMOT is the incarnation of the pure human desire expected from any brand and that Google sums up in 3 questions:

  • Will it save money?
  • Will it save time?
  • Will it improve my life?

In my side, for some reasons, I may split the third question to 2 questions:

  • Will it satisfy my need?
  • Will it improve my social status and my reputation?

In my opinion, these two questions are both essential as there’s always a need behind buying any service/product or doing any activity.

Besides, while trying the service/product or doing an activity, we often expect to recommend it or not depending on our experience. So, we wonder if this service, product, activity… will enhance our community status among our entourage and if it will help to boost our reputation. In brief words: we always get ready for “Sharing”.

Why ZMOT is so crucial?

In Google’s study, 84% of the shoppers said that ZMOT shapes their decisions.

ZMOT importance

Source: Google/Shopper Sciences, Zero Moment of Truth Macro Study Industry Studies, U.S., April 2011

For the consumer, ZMOT is the moment in which he collects data and transforms it to information in order to make the right decision. Thus, it is a process of learning that contributes in:

  • Developing the consumer’s capacity of processing many information in one shot and in a real-time,
  • Increasing the awareness about how brands turn and how the consumer should behave (negotiate) with it,
  • Defining one’s standards of selecting one thing among a multitude of offers and by that creating, implicitly, one’s consumer guide,
  • Updating one’s knowledge about what is happening in the community and even in the world,
  • Leading one’s choices based on fixed goals and limited resources.

I may say that ZMOT is for the consumer an ecosystem incorporating many parties, tools, emotions, interactions and reasons that develop his human capacities.

For the brand, ZMOT is considered as an “opportunity”. It’s a moment in which success or failure of consumer experience relies on “information”. In fact, the more the information will be available about a brand, the more the process of decision will be short but complicated for the consumer.

Actually, the complexity of making decision generally arises when the information available about a brand is not owned by itself. So, ZMOT is an opportunity because it’s measurable in terms of time and it is the time in which the brand should get closer to the potential consumer in a way that will provide him with the information needed and reply to his questions.

Nowadays, everyone could look anytime from anywhere to any kind of information. Today, we own access to every due to all the technologies we deploy. This means that the brand that will provide the more available information and the more accurate one is the most nominated to be the ultimate choice of the consumer. And that’s the reason why every single brand should be highly presented, by its own regards, during the ZMOT.

For the nexus between the consumer and the brand, ZMOT is the moment the connection is created between the consumer and the brand. It is the time when two diverse destinies cross each other. It is the period in which two different stories become “one story.

If we get back again to the movie scenario exposed in the beginning of this article, we will notice that the progress of that story connotes a certain permanent interaction that was formulated in the past in a form of messages. But, today, it’s not anymore about messages it’s rather about “conversations”.

Indeed, while seeing the movie poster, the brand was addressing a message to me. I received it and then replied to it by interest. I started collecting information and this step suppose that I have some questions that, first, the brand will answer and then the external sources. In this sense, it is an exchange of information between me, as a consumer, and the brand and then others. Consequently, we have all the rights to call it a conversation.

In the light of all the conversations that people may have with the brands that they’re interested in, it’s is the brands’ choice to whether be a part; an effective part; of these conversations or not.

Furthermore, what is important to keep in mind is the fact that the conversation already exists. It doesn’t suppose that it’s triggered by the brand because information is circulating about everything on Internet and the brand chooses whether to master it or “let it go”.

In this way, it is essential to win the ZMOT. Mr Rishad Toboccowala, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at VivaKi, once said:

“Don’t call them search engines. Call them connection engines”.

So, the main goal for each brand is winning this connection to gain the ZMOT.”

Before answering this question, I bring to your attention that a “brand” is not only a company, but it’s also an institution, an association and an “individual”. I insist on the fact that brand means also “individual” as we commonly talk about the “personal branding”.

Besides that, the individual is also subject to the ZMOT:

  • For students, graduates and professionals, recruiters perform ZMOT when they’re deciding whether to call you for an interview or not. So, information about you on Internet matters!
  • For simple individuals, people accomplish ZMOT. Even before meeting you, people will look for information and ask about you and will build a first impression towards who you are.
  • For managers, your collaborators, suppliers and customers operate ZMOT. You’re representing your company, your institution or your NGO… So, the best your reputation is on Internet, the more your business or your activity will gain good notoriety.


How to win the ZMOT?

ZMOT is one of those moments in which impact is widely unleashed. And it’s not easy to be present with the right answers at the right time unless we have the ability to well-process consumers’ data and the capacity to manage the flow of information about the brand concerned.

Thus, winning the ZMOT begins by understanding the power of the “digital word of mouth”. Mr Hurt Brett, Owner of Hurt Family Investments, said,

“This is the first time in history that word of mouth has become a digitally-archived medium”

The word of mouth has become, nowadays, a comment, an email, a post, a photo, a video, a review, … So, the most part of ZMOT happens on Internet. And mastering the word of mouth about your brand requires boosting and monitoring your presence on the web.

Gestion d'e-réputation

In this perspective, to win the ZMOT you should:

  • Be present on Internet by building your own digital identity and defining your digital strategy and brand planning,
  • Deliver continuous information about your brand by creating websites, mobiles apps and by producing updated content,
  • Get involved in the conversation by interacting with your target (prospects, collaborators, suppliers, customers…) through a well-established community management on social media, search engines and any web and mobile platform,
  • Follow up your online reputation and manage it by performing a permanent digital monitoring and figuring out how to improve what your web community is saying about you and that defines your image,
  • Forecast the questions that may be asked by your followers and anticipate their needs,
  • Assess and enhance the customer experience services that are object of the Second Moment of Truth for the main reason that the SMOT of any person constitutes the ZMOT of another person.

Finally, we can argue that winning the ZMOT is a long process that could be more detailed and fleshed out by many figures. However, whether you’re a brand or a consumer you should take into consideration ZMOT in every step you’re going through. As a brand ZMOT is a critical component of your marketing strategy and as a consumer ZMOT is a wise process of decision-making that affords you a better quality of life.

Soulaimane AMRI

Chief Executive Officer at Forcinet