What The ZMOT?

First off, I must apologize to fellow Search Insider, Gord Hotchkiss, for stealing some of his thunder here. Gord first talked about ZMOT in his May column on the blank slate (or lack thereof) in marketing. And, last week, Gord featured Google's Jim Lecinski, ZMOT pioneer, in the first of a two-part interview.

As for me, I referenced ZMOT in a June column that covered 26 things every marketer needs to know about Google today from A to, you guessed it, ZMOT. And I had planned on covering it again in this column, as it's the first I've written since the ZMOT ebook was released -- but, alas, Gord beat me to the punch. Behold the perils of being a bi-weekly Search Insider contributor.



Now, in case you're still wondering what the F is ZMOT... well, it's the latest acronym (and hashtag) to invade the marketing world, courtesy of the Big G.


ZMOT or Zero Moment of Truth refers to the moment "where consumers make choices that affect the success and failure of nearly every brand in the world." It's "a moment where marketing happens, where information happens."

ZMOT is that "grabbing-the-laptop moment" after a stimulus compels you to act (aka buy) but before the FMOT (First Moment of Truth) occurs when you're standing at the store shelf ready to take action. It's a moment in which your decision takes shape of whether or not to buy -- and, if so, which brand.

ZMOT then reemerges after the SMOT (Second Moment of Truth) post-purchase, as you decide if the brand is a keeper and worthy of sharing with friends. In marketing terms, this is the moment that influences repeat purchase, lifetime value, consumer advocacy, and word-of-mouth.

In my book, I spend a lot of time arguing that one of the key reasons Google ads work so well is that they reach people when they're in a commercial mindset. When people are in buy-mode, they're on Google. And, importantly, when people are on Google, they're in between pages on the Web, which makes them much more open to persuasion and misdirection -- aka advertising.

If only I'd have had a clear framework to describe this new mental model! Now I do. Thanks, Jim. 

It seems that if Google has become the verb for search, ZMOT is the noun for decision.


Among the many things I like about the ZMOT book is Jim's ability to stay relatively impartial. This is not a 75-page Google commercial. In fact, Jim goes to great lengths to avoid bias, using phrases like "go to your favorite search engine" rather than "Google it."

Another thing I like is how Jim uses language to conjure up strong imagery and drive home his points. In dispelling myths about the purchase funnel, Jim writes, "The funnel is now more like a neuron, with branches that let shoppers move forward and backward in the process until they're ready to make a decision."

I also admire how Jim really put the "e" in ebook. The iBooks version features embedded video in each chapter that brings the content to life with expert commentary and anecdotes.

And I love Jim's pun-derful uses of the acronym such as "ZMOT-ivations" to speak to the reasons people arrive at a ZMOT.

Above all, though, I like how ZMOT helps crystallize the relevancy and importance of SEM to those brands and categories that have been so late to the game in SEM -- eg, CPG, QSR, Health and Beauty.

Oh, how I wish I had this book in my back pocket when pitching agency SEM services to some of the world's biggest brands (and smallest SEM spenders) back in the early 2000's.

What better retort to the objection, "But no-one buys toilet-paper online..." than this quip from page 26 of ZMOT?

"[As a brand,] if you're available at the Zero Moment of Truth, your customers will find you at the very moment they're thinking about buying, and also when they're thinking about thinking about buying."


ZMOT should be required reading for anyone with a stake in marketing, not just SEM. According to a study Google conducted for this book of more than 5,000 shoppers across 12 verticals, the average shopper uses 10.4 sources of information to make a decision. That's up from 5.3 sources in 2010.

Those 10+ sources include everything from TV ads to blogs to good-ole-fashioned recommendations from friends and family. Each of these touch-points works together to influence a ZMOT.

In Chapter 6 of his book, Jim shares seven "smart ways to start winning at ZMOT." One of these is "Put Someone in Charge," advocating for organizations to assign one person to own ZMOT for the brand.

So who's the best person within your company to own ZMOT? Don't just default to the gal or guy that knows AdWords best -- although that person is likely a strong candidate. Your Head of ZMOT must get social media, mobile, video and other key forms of marketing and communication around which ZMOTs happen. And this person must be adept at working cross-functionally to make sure all departments are thinking ZMOT and infusing this critical thinking into their planning and measurement.

As Jim says on page 37, "If there's one truth I'd like you to take away from this book, it's this: ZMOT must be an equal thought, not an afterthought."

As for the other six tips, I won't share them here -- but let's just say that, while somewhat intuitive, they're a great blueprint for embracing ZMOT and changing the thinking within your company. They can help you validate assumptions about what ZMOT means for your business and uncover new insights about how to better connect with your customers and potential customers.

So what are you waiting for?!? Get the ZMOT outta here and read the book! It won't take you more than an hour or two. And you'll be better prepared to read Gord's column tomorrow.

4 comments about "What The ZMOT?".
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  1. Joel Rubinson from Rubinson Partners, Inc., July 27, 2011 at 11:57 a.m.

    I just blogged about what is missing from ZMOT. The theory is not wrong, but it is certainly incomplete.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 27, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.

    What this old timer is getting out of ZMOT is that there is a need for image advertising in addition to direct sales advertising. They are not mutually exclusive. And just because IF you can find the ZMOT doesn't mean any of the steps to get there can be eliminated since the ZMOT is different for different people and who knows the elimination of one media bent could topple the stack for some decision makers. And the decision to buy something maybe the thing rather which thing unless one has a coupon that does offer savings over the things. But that's not always the case. Could be the packaging. Could be the store's own promotion. Could be a screaming kid, empty shelf, uninformed salesperson........

    Example: There is an Anderson window spot on the TV right now. Would I buy an Anderson window? Sure. They have a long, good reputation and I have know this for many years. But I don't need windows now. Would I consider Anderson when I need them ? Sure. When I had to buy 2 large windows a couple of years ago did I buy Anderson ? It would have been welcomed, but it was not a consideration when the purchase occured. Why didn't Anderson hit my ZMOT ? And I still feel they are a reputable company with an excellent product.

  3. Aaron Goldman from Mediaocean, July 27, 2011 at 4:30 p.m.

    Thx for the comments.

    Joel - I think you're splitting hairs here. The "minus one" moment you talk about is really part of ZMOT. Have you read the actual ZMOT book? You'll see it speaks to the 3 "main sources" you point out and how they influence ZMOT.

    Paula - I think Jim would agree with you. Brand advertising (or "image" as you put it) and DR are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they're accretive.

    FYI, posted more ZMOT observations on my blog:

  4. Joel Rubinson from Rubinson Partners, Inc., July 28, 2011 at 10:49 a.m.

    Aaron, the part of the ZMOT book that you refer to is really a self-admission that the framework needed to be expanded beyond ZMOT to be complete. Search acts on demand and curiosity already created much more than it creates it. In CPG, the percent who use search as anything more than navigational laziness is still developing but is by no means the main way that grocery shoppers plan their trips. As I said, ZMOT isn't wrong just a piece of a larger framework. At least the good thing is that it attacks the purchase funnel, which I hate. you have my e-mail in case you want to take this discussion offline.

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