Picture it! Feelings and thoughts about non-cash payments expressed through images

Emma Woodley & Jez Groom
Posted on March 08, 2018

At Cowry Consulting we are studying how people think and feel about non-cash payments such as PayPal and ApplePay. We’re using new techniques that tap into the subconscious part of consumers’ minds to find out whether people feel more in control of their finances with the adoption of these types of payment methods.

One of the techniques we use is called a mental metaphor depth interview. We ask participants to come to an interview with a variety of pictures that represent their thoughts and feelings about a range of non-cash payments. We then ask them questions to delve into why they have chosen these images, and to elicit the emotional associations they are making with them.

Meet Rachel

Rachel (29), one of our interviewees, is single and living and working in London. She is very 'clued up' when it comes to her finances, having made it her mission to learn about managing her money after a very stressful experience with a credit card shortly after leaving university. She is a big fan of financial journalist and campaigner Martin Lewis, and describes herself as having an "obsession to get the best deal".

One of the images she selected prior to her interview was of a gun. She said she associated it with credit cards; it made her feel safe, but could also do her a lot of damage.  She talked about a credit card "burning a hole in her bag" and it representing an “unexploded bomb”.   

Rachel said a credit card “can drive people to spend the maximum amount, but reality bites at the end of the month”. Fortunately, Rachel also reported that she had “trained her brain” not to let this happen. She said her feelings have changed and she has started to use credit cards in a different way. They are now only a “slight” source of temptation for her.  

For contactless payments, Rachel selected a picture of a Hyper car. For her, the picture represented that the payment is fast, there is no ”faffing about”, and the queues are shorter. Rachel felt this payment type has become the norm so quickly, she didn't know what she would do without it.  This image also represented how "smart" and easy contactless payment is, she said. She is busy and city life requires speed and efficiency.  

PayPal creates a considerable amount of affection with the people we've spoken to so far. Rachel selected the image of a cat and her kittens. She feels PayPal is safe, secure and comfortable. She likes to use it in public and appreciates not having to get her card out to pay when buying things online or while travelling on the train. . She feels her safe with PayPal, and enjoys using it to buy from a variety of websites.

Finally, Rachel associated ApplePay with Stormzy, a popular and influential grime and hip-hop artist and political activist from the UK. Rachel said he is regarded as "fashionable" and is respected with people of all ages. She hasn't heard of anyone having bad experiences with ApplePay; she knows people of all ages have tried it and it's a "good all-rounder" as a payment type.  However, she is still getting used to using it herself. At first, she found it a big odd, as it was just too easy and she feels there must be a catch if things are too easy!  

Taking Rachel’s insights as an example, the Mental Metaphor depth interview method is effective in revealing deeply held emotions and thoughts in a way that would not be possible in the traditional way of interviewing. It allows people to express associations they perhaps would not make if asked to explain their feelings with words.

 The full results can be read in our report, to be published later in March.