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How emotion insights can drive experiential return for your brand

Technology & Data

How emotion insights can drive experiential return for your brand


Melissa Read explains emotion insights, and gives three best practice steps for applying them to your business.

This article was originally published in the ‘SoDA Report 2017.’


melissa readWe are on the precipice of massive change.

Emotion insights give us up-to-the-second access to customers’ authentic, unconscious responses to brand experiences and connect us to the nuances of emotion that the conscious mind cannot share. The resulting qualitative data enables brands to give consumers the experiences they want – before they’re even aware of wanting them.

To forge better connections between consumers and brands, the two main applications of these insights are optimising market performance and driving experience in responsive environments. For example, beloved brands such as Coca-Cola leverage emotion insights to assess and optimise the performance of marketing assets, from ads to individual choices such as story arcs, music and narration.

Emotion insights are equally as valuable in physical environments. For example, Stanford researchers built an Xbox console that senses players’ emotions through the monitoring of blood flow, heart rate, breathing rate, and depth of breathing. The game not only detects the emotions, but adapts to them in real time.

This is just one example of how making emotion insights technology widely available could have incredible applications for brands – both in marketing (eg. in retail spaces) and product design.


Emotion insights in action

The two fundamental benefits of emotion insights are capturing and creating authentic experiences, and driving up-to-the-second outcomes. For example, for a leading financial services brand, we used emotion insights to understand which video spots with variations in script, music, and voiceover elicited the most positive consumer response and prompted emotional reactions, that aligned to the brand’s goals.

Without emotion insights, we might have relied on surveys, interviews or focus groups, which would have captured a general sense of the way participants felt about the videos and may have even led to broad ideas for optimising them.

But with facial coding, we discovered more specific – and therefore more valuable – insights: one video’s female voiceover was the most emotionally resonant, increasing happiness. And each mention of the brand promise elicited a similar positive response, especially when represented visually (which was valuable not only as an insight, but also for the reputation of our creative team). Lastly, certain content types and themes, such as family photos and a church wedding scene, caused decreases in happiness and engagement.

These insights told us what we simply could not otherwise know what our consumers weren’t consciously aware of, and allowed us to cater our communications to the desired emotional responses. This in turn helped shape our approach to video optimisation, as well as other types of brand techniques, concepts, and assets.



Emotion insights for your brand

When thinking about how emotion insights can apply to your business, take these best practices into consideration:

Take a holistic approach: Emotion insights allow us to uncover the many facets of customers and their experiences. They tell us what customers are experiencing, but don’t always help us understand why. To that end, we recommend complementing emotion insights methods that tap unconscious feelings with additional qualitative and quantitative methods.

Invest in your team: Marketing tools and methods including emotion insights, advance and change rapidly, so it’s best to work with professionals who understand the science behind them and are tool-agnostic. Choose adaptable teams with a mix of backgrounds in cognitive neuroscience, psychology, and both qualitative and quantitative research.

Focus on impact: Emotion insights techniques, from facial coding to more complex methods like galvanic skin response and electroencephalography, are ‘shiny new objects’ in marketing research. Exciting as they are, you must be sure to engage them toward gathering insights that will make a meaningful impact on your business and result in the greatest ROI.


With these tools in your arsenal, adapting to the nuances of changing market and consumer expectations is one simple facet of a larger customer-cantered approach. Take these best practices into consideration when architecting your next engagement, and see how it impacts your marketing, your customers, and ultimately your business.



Melissa Read is head of global emotion insights at SapientRazorFish


Further reading


Image copyright: graphicsdunia4you / 123RF Stock Photo



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