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Marketers hunt emotional response

News, 16 February 2016

LONDON/NEW YORK: Marketers have an increasing number of options for assessing the emotional response of consumers to campaigns, as the research sector develops a range of tools to measure both verbal and non-verbal reactions.

This development is testament to the impact of Daniel Kahneman's ideas: the psychology professor behind the concept of System One (intuitive) and System Two (rational) thinking has suggested advertising is one of the very few System One businesses.

But understanding there is a value in measuring emotional response is one thing; being able to do so quickly and cost-effectively - crucial in a fast-moving digital environment - is another. So research agencies are having to devise new ways to approach this area.

Brand strategy and research agency Brainjuicer, for example, has just made its Ad Testing Express and FaceTrace research methodologies available via Zappistore, a company that offers a choice of market research approaches it claims are "quick, automated, affordable and scalable".

Emotional measurement is not restricted to tracking facial expressions, or, as FaceTrace does, using a set of human faces displaying emotions to better enable survey respondents to express their feelings.

US media giant Viacom last month teamed up with a tech start-up to analyse comments on social media. With a dictionary of 4m words and phrases, including millennial slang and social-media shorthand, Canvs claims to be able to distinguish the nuances of language and can sort comments into 56 emotional categories.

"Traditional sentiment analysis of good/bad/indifferent doesn't adhere to emotional constructs," noted Canvs founder and CEO Jared Feldman. "We are trying to capture a wider range of emotions." Those range from "boring" to "mindblown".

He added that automation could only do so much: "there needs to be a human involved in the (analysis) process at some point".

The growing enthusiasm for emotional campaigns has led one researcher to warn against the "cult-like focus" he has seen emerging.

"No one would deny the crucial role of emotion in driving our behaviours," said Alex Vishney, managing partner at Blaze in Sydney, but they don't explain everything.

He argued that marketers should be considering a range of factors – including motivation and shopper environment – that could be integrated into a single model to help understand "the most effective levers to pull within communications in order to get more consumers to buy our products".

Data sourced from Variety, Mumbrella, Brainjuicer; additional content by Warc staff