17 Jan 2014

The Zero Moment of Truth - It's implications and history

ZMOT - Most marketers worth their salt will have at least heard of ZMOT (Zero Moment Of Truth), whether they truly understand its implications though is a completely different thing.

Some brands get it, it makes sense, and the implications of it are seriously considered in all marketing communications, online properties, and customer service approach and response. These are the brands that are growing, expanding, increasing their revenues, and have a satisfied customer base who by-and-large are more likely to recommend said product/service to their friends. Sadly, these brands are still the significant few, relative to the majority.

For some ZMOT is just another overused, overhyped, trendy yet misunderstood buzz word that has been added to the heap of other overused buzz words that continue to flood the marketing industry. It can be regularly used to confuse the hell out of most people in meetings, and further inflate already over-inflated ego's of those significant few so trigger happy to use it, without really understanding it, and more importantly its implications.

And yet miraculously, there are still some who simply haven't heard about it, and therefore should take time out to learn about it.

This post is a short recap about the Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT); it's history, what it really means and represents, and how brands/marketers can and should utilise it through all their business and marketing decisions.

ZMOT - A little history:

What is it?

Ok, before we let the cat out the bag, let's go a little bit back in time to where this phrase originated from.

First Moment Of Truth - FMOT

First came 'The First Moment Of Truth', coined by Proctor & Gamble (P&G) in 2005 after researching consumer buying psychology. FMOT is the first seven seconds a customer has with a product - it is the first seven seconds after a customer encounters a product on a store shelf for the first time.

P&G research contends that this short period of time is critical in the buying decision making process, and is where marketers have the best chance of converting a prospective customer to 'buy now' by appealing to their values, senses, and emotions. During this time the customer is evaluating all elements crucial to making a 'buy now' decision; the packaging, price, the shop itself. The customer is also relating any marketing messages they have previously seen about the brand / product / retail shop in their decision making process.

Then shortly after FMOT was coined, original FMOT director Dina Howell realised that there was in fact a second, and equally important touch point or moment of truth. She called this (unsurprisingly) the Second Moment Of Truth.

Second Moment Of Truth - SMOT 

If FMOT is about the initial engagement; the look and feel of the product, the smell of the product, the shape of the product; all of which justify the consumers perceived monetary value of the product, then the Second Moment Of Truth (SMOT) is the application of that product.

SMOT is post purchase, when the user eagerly opens up the packaging and uses their newly purchased product for the first time. This SMOT is the defining moment for the product and the brand, and a time where the consumer is evaluating, judging, and justifying their initial purchase. If the SMOT remains a positive experience then the product will be used, the brand remains positively set in the consumers mind, and there is more chance that they will recommend the product to friends. If it is a negative experience then the opposite occurs and all that hard work and media dollars spent to position the brand/product and win over the consumer has been more than wasted; it has been damaging. The brand will then need to work even harder to winback this customer.

So what's all this talk about ZMOT for?

Zero Moment Of Truth - ZMOT

Let me explain - The world is 'a changing'; rapidly. With smartphones invading and dominating; well everywhere, and connectivity continuing to head skyward it is of no surprise that we, the consumer, are now hugely more informed and empowered than we were say even five years ago.

We could want to buy a certain product in a shop, and before we even get to that shop know significantly more about the product than the people selling the product - and that's just about the product, not to mention the retailers credibility, customer service, returns policy, and how the price compares with everyone else in...well the world. The point is, for most, we can already virtually feel, touch, taste, and play with the product before we have even stepped inside a shop, or put in our credit card details online.

Sure, we are still human, we don't all read reviews, we do still make last minute decisions on a whim, we are innately impatient (well some of us), and we still like to see and physically touch things, but the lowest hanging fruit is becoming the informed consumer, and that 'fruit' is getting lower and lower every single month, let alone every year. The consumer is no longer the naive person who is soon to make the acquaintance of Mr or Mrs salesperson and help them reach their monthly sales targets due to the sole persuasion of a great advert they saw on TV, heard on the radio, viewed online, or read in a newspaper/magazine.

No sir, the consumer is empowered, informed, knowledgable - and brands that don't truly realise this and its implications will soon be no more, or severely compromised.

So what is the ZMOT?
ZMOT is a buzz word that actually has a lot of substance, and was coined by Jim Lecinski at Google in 2011 in their ebook Winning the Zero Moment Of Truth. ZMOT refers to the point in the buying cycle  when a consumer reaches a product, often before the seller even knows they exist. Technology and connectivity are evolving and increasing this buying cycle. Image below taken from this ebook. 

Typical Buying Cycle example in 2014

  • I want to buy a new wet suit to use surfing in winter. My previous wetsuit only lasted for one winter season, having ripped by the right ankle making it unusable; which I was pretty disappointed with. I then type a search request into Google "Strong wetsuits to last the winter" and see a well written and relevant PPC advert that grabs my interest, so I click through.
  • ZMOT: This is the Zero Moment Of Truth - I am now in research mode looking for the best wetsuit to suit my purposes. I am reading user reviews and previous customer feedback and becoming increasingly informed about the products in the marketplace; all before the seller really knows who I am.  
  • FMOT: I have done my research and decided to go down to my local surf shop and see if they have the wetsuit I want in stock. (I could have done the same online). They have it and bring it out - this is the First Moment Of Truth. I like the wetsuit and decide to buy it - I was pretty much ready to buy it before I even got to the shop anyway. 
  • SMOT: Having bought the wetsuit and starting to use it, my experience of this wetsuit will determine my opinion about the brand, and whether I would choose to recommend this to my other surfing friends. If it doesn't rip through the winter and keeps me warm, there is a solid chance that I will. 

How can a company continue to thrive with ZMOT?

With the correct understanding, resources, listening skills, and approach, this is actually surprisingly easy.

  • Sell great products/services, and have integrity with your marketing. E.g Apple.
  • Engage and listen to what customers say on Social Media and review sites, provide feedback channels for customers, and respond/act upon them. Negative feedback can provide a fantastic opportunity for innovation, and also the chance of a simple fix to a potentially bigger problem. Don't let negativity manifest itself, and don't be afraid of negative feedback on your social media channels - just do something positive about it. E.g Dell Idea Storm.
  • Have great customer management - Most people just want to know that they have been heard, and that something is happening. Invest in customer management; word of mouth marketing is by far the most powerful and cost effective means to increase brand advocacy, leads, and sales. E.g KLM, who have publicly published a customer SLA. 
  • Manage your online identity and don't be coy to share data and reviews. If you don't the consumer will just go look elsewhere and you may lose the sale/opportunity. Put yourself in the mindset of the customer, where do they do their research? How can you attract them to your online properties? Be creative. E.g You and I.

Other great resources on this:
- Google

I hope this article helps, and feel free to connect with me.

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &

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