Verbal responses often fail to elicit the true nature of emotions. Consumers find it hard to verbalize emotions, and they may not even be conscious of their existence. Moreover, some emotions are personal and perhaps embarrassing to express aloud. There are also subjectivities in languages and cultures. In some countries for instance, people are less willing to express negative opinions. For these reasons, the focus on emotion research is shifting to indirect interviewing methods and non-verbal approaches.


Exhibit 23.10   Ipsos ASI’s Emoti*ScapeTM, an emotions landscape.

The approach adopted by Ipsos ASI makes use of Emoti*ScapeTM, a show card containing a map of 40 emotions (see Exhibit 23.10), each represented by an illustration of a facial expression (emoticons) and a verbal description of the feeling expressed. Respondents are asked to indicate where on this emotions landscape best represents their feelings for each of the following:

  • What feelings do you have from this ad?
  • What feelings is the advertiser trying to use and portray within the ad?
  • What emotions do you associate with being a brand user?

Their responses are summarized to reflect the emotional reactions and responses to the advertisement and the brand.

There are also a number of physiological methods of testing advertisements that measure the respondents’ involuntary reactions to stimuli. For instance, research on autism at the MIT Media Lab and the University of Cambridge has spawned non-verbal technologies to measure emotional response.

One of these is a wearable, wireless biosensor that measures emotional arousal via skin conductance (aka galvanic skin response). It is based on the fact that electrodermal activity grows higher during states such as excitement, attention or anxiety and lower during states such as boredom or relaxation.

Emotional states such as liking and attention may also be gauged from facial expressions. Neuromarketers have accordingly developed tools that read facial expressions using a webcam to give insights into consumers’ response to advertising.

The development of portable, wireless electroencephalogram (EEG) (see Exhibit 23.11) scanners has enabled neuroscientists to gain insights into how the mind responds to stimuli. Sensors covering the surface area of the brain can capture synaptic (brain) waves, and amplify and dispatch them to a remote computer. The resulting streams of data reveal participants’ subconscious responses to advertisements, and capture their emotion, attention and memory retention during the course of the commercial.

Exhibit 23.11   Fourier One is a medical-grade, dry and wireless EEG headset developed by Nielsen Neuro (Photo courtesy of the Consumer Neuroscience division of Nielsen).

EEGs are appropriate for capturing signals about attention, arousal, fatigue and surprise, which are emitted from the brain’s surface. They are not as effective in picking up signals from deeper within the brain, that are key for decision making. EEGs therefore are better suited for testing feelings and emotions, and not appropriate for testing informational ads or commercials that require thinking.

The need for controlled location/laboratory environment makes EEGs somewhat restrictive and removed from the natural settings in which advertisements are processed. Even so the use of EEGs is picking up as equipment costs decline.  

In recent years we have seen rapid rise in the development and adoption of the non-conventional analytics techniques described here. A host of organizations, many relatively new, have sprung up building devices for eye tracking, EEG, facial expressions and biosensors. Other organizations such as iMotions, have developed solutions that lets researchers integrate these technologies as well as surveys, under a single unified software platform.

Marketers are increasingly using a blend of eye tracking, EEG, facial coding, and biometric, in combination with conventional quantitative/qualitative research studies, to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising and other elements of the mix, including packaging and product usage.

Collectively these techniques provide a rich source of diverse metrics. While biometric measures reveal the extremes of emotional engagement, EEG devices provide for a more granular understanding of respondents’ emotions, thoughts and motivations, and facial coding helps to interpret their facial expressions. When combined with eye trackers, marketers are able to identify the specific elements of the ad/stimulus that capture consumers’ attention and trigger their responses.

Details about eye tracking, EEG, facial coding and biometric devices are provided Chapter Biometrics.

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