How to Understand Your Brand’s “Emotional Value”

Discover how applying Emotion Intelligence can help you understand your brand’s Emotional Value through the power of market research.

By Chuck Bean

Do you know your brand’s “emotional value?” It’s understandable if the answer is no. Most brands don’t.

Yet while understandable, it’s no longer a safe position to make assumptions about your brand’s emotional value, especially as it relates to your competition’s. 

Even teams who can articulate language that can be descriptive of their brand’s intended emotional appeal often concede a difficulty quantifying what has become a critical component of market growth and share. Human emotions, especially those evoked by your brand among its intended customer base, carry value.

The difficulty lies in transcending the understanding of whether a brand’s emotional value is “good enough,” as it’s much more complex than that. The question of, “Does the data suggest our brand’s emotional value is good?” simplifies the equation. What’s considered good for one brand, category, or product might be detrimental to another.

What’s required to truly understand the emotional nuances that drive purchase decisions, brand affinity, customer loyalty, and even market share acquisition is deep analysis of not only which emotions a brand does evoke for a given market, but also which emotions that brand should evoke.

Even a brand as iconic as Coca-Cola sometimes needs to change course. One example is when the company realized the brand value of a then-burgeoning threat known as “The Pepsi Generation.” What we now know to be a pillar of Coke’s brand appeal was the result of sophisticated study of emotions…which revealed a powerful discovery that even smaller companies can make today.

Decoding Human Emotions

It’s important to understand which emotions drive consumer behavior in a given category and to be careful not to oversimplify the calculus. Some brands actually need to lean into what might otherwise be considered “negative” emotions, such as fear or avoidance. (Think insurance and personal injury law, to name two examples.) Other brands must evoke desire or attraction (say, fashion, hospitality, or food brands).

However, the nuance lies in understanding the connective tissue between your target market’s preferred emotional state and that which your product or service can credibly deliver against. When Coca-Cola worked to understand the emotions being conjured by Pepsi’s “Pepsi Generation” brand appeal, it was revealed that a segment of the market was responding to emotions that evoke the emotion of joy. Coca-Cola could have simply worked to mimic its rising competitor and also message to joy, but that “me-too,” reactive, copycat marketing was sure to fall flat—especially if it wasn’t rooted in demonstrable authenticity. Instead, Coca-Cola’s objective was to understand what counter-narrative might exist relative to its own authentic brand value.

The discovery? Serenity. Not only did emotion analyses reveal Coke’s authentic brand appeal among its target demographic, it managed to reveal one that was counter to what Pepsi was emphasizing. It was an emotional landscape that Coca-Cola could genuinely own, as well as ground that Pepsi saw no use to compete on. Thus launched The Cola Wars, as they were called.

For those who this example might pre-date, you’re still seeing the effects of this pivot today in Coca-Cola’s brand architecture. If you’re ever wondering what polar bears have to do with selling soft drinks, the short story is that playful, cute polar bears frolicking in an animated winter wonderland conveyed serenity. To this day, these calming, playful polar bears represent the serenity that not only a legacy brand like Coke conjures, but one that aligns with the positive emotions that its customers want to feel.

Tell Us How You Really Feel

Emotion Intelligence (EI) is largely a brand-value-oriented analysis—studying the emotional connections between human and company, product or category. Sophisticated EI combines elements of both quantitative and qualitative data analysis, because emotions are so complex, often difficult to express in language (as well as interpreting that language), and can be deeply “buried” in a person’s subconscious.

Even neuroscience has begun to play in this area of research, deploying very sophisticated technology and tools to study emotions in humans, even going so far as to hook people up to machines to detect brain activity and monitor chemical changes that might demonstrate emotions that people won’t necessarily freely articulate.

Of course, artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining favor in this arena, as it is in nearly all walks of life. However, because we are dealing in understanding emotions that only humans have truly experienced, we believe that it’s critical to inject human oversight and participation in such studies. We call this technique Augmented Intelligence.

Augmented Intelligence combines the sophistication of artificial intelligence with the critical nuance of EI to deliver an optimized approach to studying, analyzing, and leveraging emotional drivers of consumer action. In other words, AI + EI = Augmented Intelligence.

Martec’s approach to studying and documenting these emotional drivers works along eight major channels/dimensions:

  1. Pleasant vs. Unpleasant – As discussed above
  2. Active vs. Passive – Pepsi’s “joy” versus Coke’s “serenity,” for example
  3. Inward vs. Outward – Is a person feeling the emotion or is the brand expressing it?
  4. Passion vs. Dispassionate – A sliding scale, ranging from 0 (no passion) to 11 (a great deal of passion)

Once these emotions are detected, documented, and aligned along a matrix, a brand is able to build the emotional DNA of the brand messaging, its visual identity, marketing and advertising strategy, etc.

The effect of this is that you don’t need to understand how to “deal with” 10,000 emotions…you simply need to understand the degree to which specific types of emotions are being felt and then, by working with the associated primary properties of those emotions, you can identify the optimal and appropriate actions.

Do the Math and Don’t Forget to Show Your Work

The final critical element here is the quantification of EI data. The Martec Emotion Score empowers insights teams to draw actionable conclusions about the data analysis, even when studying something so seemingly unquantifiable as human emotions.

Charting where emotions land on that passion scale, for example, can enable stakeholders to process visualizations that reveal once hidden, but now plainly obvious, conclusions. 

Just as an equalizer is used to balance the various tones of music—bass, treble, and various degrees of mid-range—the Martec Emotion Score displays data that clearly shows where your brand needs more or less emotional drivers. Perhaps a brand needs to “raise the bass” or “lower the treble” on their emotional value equalizer so it can hit all the right notes with its intended listening audience. (Puns intended.)

The Balance Between Neuroscience and Sentiment Analysis

We feel that the true value of Emotion Intelligence research is revealed in the four “S’s:”

  • Simple
  • Seamless
  • Scalable
  • Scientific

While we’ve emphasized just how sophisticated and nuanced EI analysis needs to be, the outputs must be intuitive for non-technical people to act upon. 

Furthermore, EI can, and often does, drop into existing market research studies, so they need not be labor-intensive and budget-exhaustive exercises that slow other research projects down. Rather, EI can be seamlessly integrated to other studies, or stand alone.

While we’re intrigued as anyone by the power of the machines and brainwave monitors used by our neuroscientist friends, such approaches, while highly scientific, can be difficult to achieve at the scale and budget that most companies are working within. Additionally, these types of studies should be conducted with market researchers who can decode what the neuroscience reveals so that the impressive read-outs and scientific outputs are actional and applicable in the field of market research and toward real-world marketing, advertising and brand-architecture objectives.

While EI surpasses its simple sister methodology of Sentiment Analysis, it’s important that we don’t tip the scales too far toward neuroscience, as the tools embedded into EI bring the appropriate level and balance of two other “S’s:” sophistication and sensibility.

Humans are emotional beings. Purchases are largely emotional events. Customers are humans. All of this means that brands of all sizes have emotional values. Whether a brand chooses to study, document, and leverage that value is the question that not only the Coca-Cola’s of the world need to address, but also any brand that’s selling a product or service to humans with emotions.

Want to learn more about how your company can learn about and leverage its emotional value? Download our free eBook on Emotion Research here.

Chuck Bean is a Martec Partner and serves as Chief Marketing Officer. To get in touch, use the Contact Us form below.

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