LONDON: There is a symbiotic relationship between emotions and word of mouth (WOM) that can create a virtuous circle for brands and drive sales according to new research.

BrainJuicer, the behavioural science agency, used its proprietary FaceTrack system to test consumers' emotional reactions to 52 consumer-facing brands in the UK covering a range of categories, from financial services and retailers to energy brands, packaged goods and broadcasters. The results were then compared with WOM specialist Keller Fay's data for the previous 12 months.

In a webinar, Tom Ewing, content director at BrainJuicer, highlighted the correlation between emotion and word of mouth in what he described as a "mutually beneficial relationship".

"Positive WOM creates greater emotion, greater emotion creates WOM, giving people something to talk about," he said.

But he cautioned that no one emotion of the eight tracked by BrainJuicer had a high correlation with word of mouth. In fact the strongest correlation was between neutrality and not talking. Or as Ewing put it: "Feel nothing, say nothing".

It appeared, however, that there was a positive relationship between emotional intensity and brand WOM, with the most emotional brands being talked about three times as much as the least emotional.

"People like to talk about brands they feel good about," noted Steve Thomson, managing director at Keller Fay UK. He said the emotional power of a brand was strongly associated the WOM sentiment it received: tracking Keller Fay data against BrainJuicer's produced a correlation co-efficient of +0.7.

Very few brands would get positive WOM, he suggested, unless the underlying emotion was also fairly intense and positive.

It was possible, however, to be a well-loved brand while not being much discussed, examples being the BBC and Amazon. Thomson suggested that was because these were essentially delivery brands – people talked about a programme rather than the BBC itself or a book rather than the company that supplied it.

There were several conclusions to be drawn for brand owners, including the need to avoid a reliance on short-term viral gimmicks. Brands should establish and reinforce strong emotional connections to maximise social relevance, Thomson said.

He further advised that brands should avoid slipping into the background and should consider a paid media strategy and a focus on positive experiences to help visibility and trigger WOM.

Data sourced from BrainJuicer; additional content by Warc staff