We recently examined how knowing your customers’ emotional drivers can actually increase sales by introducing the science behind what we call emotion channel properties. While we preach everyday how critical it is to truly understand your market’s preferred emotional states when designing both marketing language and customer experiences, we caution that there is also a risk in only scratching the surface.

In fact, only going so far when conducting emotion analysis of a given audience is the metaphorical equivalent of drawing meaning from a nod and a wink: We run the risk of interpreting an input incorrectly, insufficiently or downright erroneously. Just as one might who finds oneself on the receiving end of the nod and wink, we interpret the data how we wish it to be, rather than what it may truly be.

It’s All Good?

As we illustrated in the prior discussion of this topic, there is much more to consumer sentiment than mere categorical definitions of positive and negative.

Emotion Channel properties Emotion Intelligence

Unfortunately, most sentiment analysis only goes so far as to determine pleasant versus unpleasant emotions. But not only is that an incomplete data set, it also runs the risk of returning a “false positive” — pun very much intended. Because it just might be that the emotion you want your customer to feel at the point of purchase is one that is counter-intuitively unpleasant, rather than pleasant!

Yes, it’s tempting to assume that we want our customers to have positive sentiments toward our brands and products, but that’s not categorically the case. Consider insurance products, for example. You’d rather your prospective customer experience something akin to fear or uneasiness about the future, which are very unpleasant emotions, rather than contentment. Contentment doesn’t drive insurance sales. Nor does it inspire the purchase of long-term investment products. In situations such as these, you’re actually marketing to a negative sentiment of uneasiness or even dread by providing the promise of deferred comfort…not an easy sell if the prospect is feeling just fine about his or her future in the moment.

So we start by questioning the very premise of a bias toward pleasant emotions. Where does a brand truly need to be when talking to and engaging with its constituents? Once that is validated, it all gets much more specific and scientific from there.

In fact, when baking in all the factors that contribute to expressions of emotion, we actually map to 32 distinct emotion channels, subdivided by what we have defined as eight emotion groups, divisible by four emotion properties.

How Emotions Drive Purchasing Decisions emotion intelligence chart emotion landscape

What’s the Difference Between Joy and Serenity?

To reiterate just how nuanced this can—and should—become, let’s revisit the example of brands that offer the same product to similar customers, albeit in very different manners and forms. Consider retailers of automotive aftermarket products. This could be anything from engine components to windshield wipers to brake pads and chemical additives. A prospective buyer of such products has a range of potential vendors, depending on what they’re in the market for. There are automotive specialty retailers, such as AutoZone, NAPA, Advance, etc.; there are the large “marts” that offer a smaller selection of some products in this space, such as Walmart, Kmart or Meijer; and there is online retail, most notably Amazon.

If you are a retailer in this space, why would/should a customer purchase this product at your store over one of the myriad alternatives?

In a word? Emotion.

And again, it’s not just a matter of which retailer provides or promises the most “pleasant” experience to the shopper. To review, both pleasant and unpleasant emotional states can be further divided into inward and outward emotion properties, and each of those can be further divided into active or passive emotion groups, which each contain four distinct emotion properties.

So in a situation in which Amazon is competing with NAPA, say, for the dollar of an automotive aftermarket customer, each will deliver a separate and distinct shopping experience. In both cases, the customer will want to experience a pleasant emotion of getting the car fixed or enhanced. In both cases, the customers are seeking inward pleasant emotions—that is, they want the positive sentiment to be something that is experienced internally, rather than in some externality. But here’s the distinction: One of these two retailers is better suited to provide the active emotion of joy, and the other is more liable to deliver a passive emotion of serenity.

Can you tell which is which? And why it matters?

If you’re a brand in this space, you’d better. In fact, you’d better understand which type of customer will want to achieve which specific emotional state, so that you can market to it, target the appropriate customer, and deliver a customer experience that fulfills the brand promise you’re offering in your advertising.

One customer may want the “joy” of convenience and a quick, transactional one-click shopping experience. This customer knows how to fix the car, and just needs the part. This customer also wants the lower price that Amazon may be able to offer. This person isn’t shopping around, this person is ready to make a specific purchase. The product arrives on the front porch two days later and the customer experiences the joy of getting their car back to ship shape.

Emotion Intelligence Martec Emotion Score emotion research automotive aftermarket customer experience

Another customer might feel ill-at-ease when shopping for automotive parts. This customer may need help and guidance, and to have someone remove the intimidation that he or she can experience when operating out of his or her comfort zone. Such an individual seeks the “serenity” of having a knowledgeable counter person recommend (and even retrieve) the precise product the customer is seeking, perhaps complete with some directions on installation or use.

Two different customers. One is a do-it-yourself-er, the other is a do-it-for-me. Two distinct motivators. Two different emotional states. Two different shopping experiences. All offering and selling the same products.

For the brand? Two different messages. Two different customer experiences.

And it’s not that one is better than another…or that one is more “pleasant” than the competitor’s “unpleasant” experience. It’s all about knowing your audience, then connecting to their emotional drivers in everything you do and say.

What Could Go Wrong?

The annals of advertising and brand management lore are littered with cautionary tales…companies only going so far when studying consumer sentiment and not applying the full range of science at their disposal.

Most famously, there was an era in which Pepsi was literally marketing to what they affectionately dubbed “a new generation.” It was, by definition, a younger audience. This youth movement of sorts naturally responded to feelings of joy, as the young often do (instant gratification, and all that). When Pepsi started to gain market share in the soft drink category as a result of campaigns focused on feelings of joy targeted specifically and strategically to a younger demographic, Coke saw what was happening and, one might say, they panicked. They reflexively pivoted to messages of joy in an attempt to regain lost market share.

But it didn’t connect. It wasn’t authentic. Coke is, and was, a heritage brand. It evokes feelings of stability, of nostalgia, of “tried and true”. In other words, serenity. It wasn’t until Coke went back to emotional properties more authentic to its legacy that it began to re-establish itself as the industry behemoth it remains today. (To wit, you may remember the brand once marketed as “Coca-Cola Classic.”)

The mistake that many companies make is that they want to immediately perform a sentiment analysis on their own brands. But such data is potentially immaterial if not properly understood within the broader context of the customer journey. Rather than asking, “How do customers feel about the Ford F-150 we sell?,” we start where the customer starts—at the beginning!

  • How do customers feel about my CATEGORY (automotive)?
  • How do customers feel about my PRODUCT SET (trucks)?
  • How do customers feel about my BRAND (Ford)?
  • How do customers feel about my PRODUCT OFFERING (F-150)?
  • Lastly, how do we want them to feel about my product offering versus the COMPETITION (Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado, etc.)?

The first level of analysis you need to perform is to understand whether what you’re trying to sell is out of synch with your category, and re-perform the sentiment analysis at each step along the way. We want to re-examine what that customer weighing a purchase decision experiences along their path toward determining which product is the right one to satisfy his or her unique preferred emotional state.

To skip ahead to brand or product analysis is to miss the bigger (and more important) picture. It’s the same as misinterpreting the wink and the nod, and missing an opportunity to beat your competition to the affinity and loyalty of the customer.

And if the competition is doing this better than you, you might not ever get a second chance to make a first impression.
For further information about how we analyze and harness emotions for brands, marketers and market researchers, I invite you to look into the Martec Emotion Score. If you have any questions about how the 32 emotion channels can be applied to your brand, contact us directly!

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