emotionsIn the month when our thoughts turn to love, let’s talk about emotions.

Hearing marketing leaders speak at recent events & reading other marketers predictions as to key themes for 2016, I was struck how many referenced emotion.

Within my own predictions for 2016, published in Database Marketing magazine, I suggested: “New technology will continue to automate content marketing & personalization, but high-profile mistakes will anger customers. This will drive demand for greater ‘humanizing’ of marketing, requiring qualitative skills and more holistic insight.” 

What might that mean in practice?

Well amongst the marketing leaders calling me back to think about the role of emotions & brand advertising, was Monika Schulze. Beyond conference events, I’m glad to say that Monika has also become a prolific published on LinkedIn. Here is a short article from there, in which she makes the case for why emotions matter. The clue is in the heading. ‘Emotion sells’:

Emotions sell

There are a lot of studies with statistics that show that if you have a strong brand, customers are more willing to consider, purchasing and paying a premium for your brand. This applies to B2B or B2C. You need to be an attractive brand, with an emotional connection.

That’s all very well you might say, but it sounds like just a nostalgic harking back to the glory days of brand advertising and seemingly limitless budgets for winning TV commercials. Surely the world has changed since then. Well, yes it has (and out of interest Monika understands that as well as anyone with her emphasis on TransMedia Branding). So, how should Insight Leaders respond to the opportunity of emotional advertising today?

Although often over-hyped (and wrongly limited to just the brain as a centre of neural activity in the body), one advance since the marketing of yesteryear, is NeuroScience. We now have access to much more information beyond self reported research on emotions. We can actually study what is happening in the brain when customers are presented with emotional marketing. For a handy layman’s summary of what that has taught us, this engaging article from Courtney Seiter is a good place to start:

The Science of Emotion in Marketing: How We Decide What to Share and Whom to Trust

Every day it seems like we feel hundreds of different emotions – each nuanced and specific to the physical and social situations we find ourselves in. According to science, it’s not that complicated by a long shot. A new study says we’re really only capable of four “basic” emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, and angry/disgusted.

So, the scientific evidence is there. Used well, emotional content can engage customers better than rational argument or other marketing content. What should this mean for Customer Insight leaders? Is it just a reminder that qualitative methods matter as well, or that research is needed as well as behavioural analytics? Well, I think it is such a reminder, but also more. Insight teams, research teams need to improve their ability to learn about the emotional impact of their marketing and how to improve on this metric.

A great site for regular advice on research best practice is Quirks magazine. So, it was encouraging to see that their latest issue included two articles related to this topic. In the first, Collette Eccleston (a senior director at Pragmatic Brain Science Institute) shares her advice on methodologies for measuring emotions (and other non-conscious experiences). In the second, Lou Carricarte (from Artful Decisions) interestingly suggests that the real opportunity today is the intersection of emotion, mobile technology & realtime engagement. That idea needs expanding but I can see what he means given the willingness of many customers to express emotion via their phones & potential for firms to respond in the moment. Interesting ideas:

Emotion and the non-conscious: predicting customer behavior

Marketers and researchers know the powerful role emotions play in driving consumer behavior but the appropriate methods to measure these emotions is often debated and not well understood.

When mobile technology and emotion meet in real-time engagement

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But I’d like to leave the last word, on emotions, customer insight & marketing, to an article published a year ago in the New Yorker magazine. In typically entertaining writing, it shares the news of what a company called Affectiva has managed to develop as scalable technology to read people’s expressions, identify emotions and provide that as data for analytics. I’ve had no experience of working with this company myself, but have seen elements of this solution elsewhere. As someone who preaches the need to bring our research & analytics closer together, this is an exciting development. I’m not surprised the company is busy & I suspect emotional analytics will be a growing field within Customer Insight for years to come:

We Know How You Feel – The New Yorker

Three years ago, archivists at A.T. & T. stumbled upon a rare fragment of computer history: a short film that Jim Henson produced for Ma Bell, in 1963. Henson had been hired to make the film for a conference that the company was convening to showcase its strengths in machine-to-machine communication.

How do you feel about that? Have you had any experience in using insight to both understand the emotional journey for customers, identify where marketing or service needs to change or even measuring emotional response from customers? I’d love to hear from you if you have. It would bring a tear to my eye…