Is Emotion Measurable? Connecting Brands with Human Feelings

Posted January 31, 2022 by Alyssa Stahr

I have a friend who passed out in a Burger King when she was 10. Decades later, the memory of that embarrassing moment has driven her away from BK for life. I, on the other hand, love the smell and taste of a good BK burger. I do not have the same emotional experience that she had, the measurement of which is made easier thanks to Greg Stucky, chief research officer of InsightsNow. 

Personalization, comfort foods and more emotional food trends driving 2022 bring new meaning to “you are what you eat.” Head into the grocery store, especially in the United States, and the shelves are stocked with brands vying for space, relevancy and emotional connection to the consumer. But, how do we make the connection from what we feel to what we grab? How do brands shift strategies based on emotional concepts that are as unique to each individual as a taste bud’s opinion? 

Stucky’s two-part “Why is There So Much Confusion About Emotions” webinar, was a deep dive into measurement of emotion. What are they, and probably more importantly, what are they not? How do those in the food and beverage industry measure something that can be so abstract and quickly changing?

What is happiness?

Brands need to build some degree of emotional intelligence into the innovation process. Understanding, eliciting, measuring, then applying emotions consistently into the research process. As an example, Stucky used happiness. There are a number of ways people use emotional language to talk about themselves, and “happy” could mean several different things, i.e. this specific thing makes me happy or I’m a happy person. 

Emotions can occur as an outcome of an appraisal process — in a contextual setting and also an internal state of mind. Those two, for example, are the foundation or base to appraise some sort of brand or person and measure the emotion. But, we may have other concerns or expectations in a given moment, making it even more complicated. External context changes emotions and impacts habits and how we’re feeling in the moment. 

For example, my friend and her BK trauma changed the context and frame of reference. The environment and the enjoyment of food matters; context is fundamental. Our temperaments, attitudes, moods and emotions change versus whether they’re projected at something or not projected. 

Stucky’s four drivers:

Temperament: Slow to change. Who you are. Not projected. 

From an innovation standpoint, the value with temperament is the ability to target individuals. When it comes to innovation, does this brand or product support how I see myself or my aspirational self (consumer) opportunity to enhance brand love and target (innovator)?

Attitudes: Still slow to change, but may be projected onto a product. Attitudes tell us how people are evaluating a product in a slow to change way.
Changes over time due to memories and values.
Described in what we think, feel, or do.
Always projected.
Attitudes are critical for new product innovation. “Attitudes about brands are critical to understanding where you have permission to extend a brand,” Stucky said. Attitudes are the subconscious “truths” we hold. What do we desire, value and trust? 

Consumers’ attitudes are reflected in if the brand, product or experience delivers against  expectations that are grounded in attitudes. Innovators here have an opportunity to drive product usage frequency and extension of the brand.

Moods: Not projected.

Internal state; how you are feeling at that point in time, may not change as rapidly as emotions (below) but change faster. 

Not projected onto anything, but have generalized influence over behaviors or perceptions. Just one element or cue doesn’t necessarily mean it adjusts mood in one way or another, so context matters here. For example, red isn’t always arousing or stimulating. Blue may not always be calming or relaxing. Soothing music may not always be soothing.
Brands have great opportunities for creation in this space and to drive repeat purchases, creating patterns. Consumers can ask themselves: Can continued use of this product/completion of these activities help shift my mood?”  

Emotions: The fastest change.

Always projected at a particular object. 

They’re an outcome of an appraisal process in the moment; they’re fast and fleeting. Rewards and punishments consumers get from using products in the moment change the attitude you may feel about a product or brand. And, connection in the moment can literally change someone’s life. The consumer may ask themself: “Does this product or experience change how I feel, even fleetingly, to a more desired feeling or emotion?” Innovators here have an opportunity to build positive relationships with new products and brands.

Measure, apply, connect.

So, now that marketers and developers have insight into our feelings in more of a measurable way, Stucky applies it to a rubric that can help craft clear insight statements about why a certain emotion is being experienced when using a product. Thus, once consumers experience an emotion, brand developers can take action on them for marketing, research and development purposes.

Stucky’s Emotions Insight Wheel is a behavioral framework that helps generate emotion insights statements. The Wheel translates and organizes emotion information into being able to communicate emotions in a more insightful way. Since we’re on the burger theme, Stucky used an example of Maggie’s First Beyond Burger Experience.

He then connects Maggie’s concerns into four quadrants: functional, sensory, social and psychological and then practically applies them into qualitative research and data to create a value statement.

In the appraisal projection, a product can do many things, and a number of emotions can be experienced at once. Which emotions fall into what space? We’re now able to connect these emotions to what’s cuing that emotion. If this product, for example, is disliked, what about the product is cueing that emotion? What quadrant? Identify the goal, identify the projection (is it a generic experience or a specific part of the product?) then identify the emotion. 

Now that we’ve brought to life and connected what emotion is to what it actually means, concerns a person has over a product could improve the smell, aroma, taste, etc. And, who doesn’t want the best burger tailor made for them? Tastes like happiness to me.

Tags: , , , , ,


Let us know your pursuits. We’ll find the best way to get you there.