Understanding consumer emotions with Emotion Centric [Video]

We all agree that emotions are powerful drivers of consumer behavior and decisions. But researchers need tools to measure consumers’ emotional state, and an analysis framework to make results usable and actionable.

At Communispace, our communities encourage a safe and trusting environment for our members, however, we have begun to leverage Emotion Centric Explorer to uncover community members’ emotional reactions to a study subject.

Using the technique of free-association, we can largely bypass rational filters and self-censorship, to illuminate their underlying truths. Additionally, Emotion Centric uncovers the perceptions, beliefs and imageries associated with the emotions and study subject, which provide actionable levers for marketers to change or reinforce consumers’ emotions.

In yesterday’s webinar, I brought attendees through not only the methodologies of the Emotion Centric Explorer tool but also provided examples of how understanding both rational and emotional drivers for consumers help marketers when making smarter business decisions.

If you missed the webinar, you can find the recording below. We have also posted some Q&A that we were unable to address on the webinar itself, but if you have any additional thoughts or questions, we’d love for you to post them here. Let’s get a great conversation going!

  Q: Referring to the example of the person getting cut off in traffic—you mention that consumers tend to rationalize and self censor so there are various ways he or she can react.  What role does the consciousness play or what factors are involved in activating the frontal lobe, which narrows the options so much?

A: I think the question is relates to our subconscious. When does our subconscious feeling interplay with our conscious rational system? There are still good debates about what exactly is ‘subconscious’. I subcribe to the perspective that feelings that are subconscious are simply due to the fact that we are not paying attention to them. For example, the feeling of your shoe around your left foot: a few seconds ago, the tactile signals were coming to your brain, but they are subconscious because you were not paying attention to them. Now that I’ve drawn your attention to those feelings, it has suddenly become conscious.

So, in the case of the traffic example, if you are not aware of your feelings, then your frontal lobe never had a chance to intervene. Your behavior is going to be driven by what your emotional system tells you to do. Your rational system can only participate when a decision or choice has entered into consciousness. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of your little reptilian brain…

Q: In the free association exercise, is there any “magic” to the number of questions you ask?  Why not 7 or 3?

A: While there is no magic to the numbers, you do need to offer enough questions to assure that the person is really providing honest feedback, without overwhelming them.  So 3 is probably too few to really get them thinking about their feelings and any more than 6 or 7 is going to cause some fatigue, resulting in less honest answers.

Q: Referring here to the “emotion distribution slide”—it looks like Emotion-centric works best when targeting the conflicted group.  But what role do the rejecter and enthusiast categories play?

A: You do want to identify what specifically the conflicted group is struggling with and move them into the enthusiast category.  You can do this by looking into how the enthusiasts are feeling about the product, or campaign.  Likewise, you can learn from the rejecter group specifically what you should avoid focusing on, or what needs to be altered, to help give the conflicted a more positive experience.

Q: At what point would you introduce this tool in an existing community?  Is it something you can apply early on or do you want to wait a while, when the members in the community have had to time to get to know each other and are really opening up?

A: You can introduce this early in the process.

Q: Do you have to have a community on your platform to use the method?

A: No. Emotion Centric does not require a community on our platform or any special members. We feel it is an excellent complement to our community platform because the environment within which our community members participate is already geared toward generating open and honest communication.

Q: Is this method qualitative/quantitative? Also do you have both the emotional method and the rational questions asked in the study?

A: This methodology can be either qualitative or quantitative. Larger sample size can provide deeper insights for people looking for more of a statistical representation.  And yes, rational, or standard survey questions can be included in the same study.

Q: How long does a community run?

A: Since building relationships and generating trust among members and the brand, our communities generally do not run for less than a year.  However, some of our most successful clients have had their communities running for 7-10 years!

Of course, the communities do more than just emotion studies. Generally, communities are running several studies every week, for exploratory to very specific feedback on marketing or product concepts.

Q: In the hospital industry, emotions obvious run very high when people or their family members get sick. We have found that it’s difficult to assign +/- value to our Facebook fans’ comments similar to those of other products/services.  How is the Communispace’s algorithm different?

A: Unlike comments in Facebook, which are public, brief, and often just limited to a simple “Like,” what goes on in a community is private, intimate, and much more diverse in the ways in which people can express themselves. Because our communities are recruited, members are screened, and facilitators play a very active and visible role in both initiating conversation and maintaining an emotionally safe environment. As a result, community members feel much more free to express precisely the kinds of feelings and experiences that they would not feel comfortable posting to their close or distant “friends” on Facebook. And that’s a big part of why participation rates in our communities average 64%, as compared to a fan page, where on average only 1% of fans ever post anything more than a “Like.” To learn more about the unique and powerful value of communities in the health sciences and health care area, you may want to read our white paper, Use Only as Directed.

Q: How long on average would it take to build a community for participants to start sharing with a high level of trust?

A: Very quickly. Usually, after several weeks of lighter research and community build activities, members are very comfortable and unguarded, sharing often surprising and unsolicited feedback.

Q: This framework seems to give us some indicators to create brand affinity – does it translate to brand transaction?

A: The emotions evoked by a brand can generally predict behavior. For example, someone who feels curious will likely seek information. However, we recommend deeper dives into specific stages of the purchase cycle. For example, what are the emotions associated with purchasing this product? Or the emotions associated with consuming this product? The emotions associated with a brand are very high level. Deeper dives will illuminate further insights into drivers and barriers to purchase and engagement behavior.

Q: What if they aren’t in touch with their emotions relative to that topic? For example, if it’s a low-involvement category.

A: Even low-involvement categories evoke emotions – such as boredom, anger (why are you bothering me?), calm (safe routine). Even these emotions, while not sexy, are extremely valuable insights that can inform growth opportunities.

Q: Communities can revolve around a shared dynamic. How do you keep team dynamic (especially among people who know each other or have familiarity with each other) from cancelling out independent thoughts that might be very directive?

A: If I’m understanding the question correctly, you’re asking how we prevent “group think” from taking hold in a community. We do so by giving people multiple modes of expressing themselves both in a named and anonymous fashion – discussions, surveys, brainstorms, image annotations, journals, media galleries, EmotionCentric exercises, etc. – and through our facilitation practices. Our community managers are very intentional about encouraging dissent and debate, and acknowledging and reinforcing a diversity of voices. And what a lot of research has found is that people who may be intimidated in a group context are actually more vocal and willing to express their individual perspective in the context of an online community, which has this  unique meld of intimacy and relative anonymity.

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