Emotions are now part of Big Data.

Emotional Analytics is making its entry into the branding world, revolutionising the way society might work as a whole.

As humans, most of our decisions are made irrationally and are conditioned by a number of factors including our past experiences, our background or our emotions. Up until recently, we were able to collect a certain amount of information about consumers which we all know as ‘Big Data’.

Combining marketing and “medical” research, we are now able to measure people’s physiological responses during a purchase, their reaction to a campaign or their feelings about an app or a website. Neuroscientists are conducting researches using techniques such as eye tracking or measuring the level of stress by analysing people’s sweating levels, in order to understand what specific emotions an advert triggers. Facebook actually created a simplified version of this system in 2016 allowing its users to “like” in different ways by choosing an emoji. As a result, they are able to curate a more personalised newsfeed and understand better who their audience is.

People give away their personal data because the experience is worth it.

The interesting part is how it is being developed without us truly noticing. In the study of consumer behaviour, we have been aware of the role of senses in triggering emotional responses for a long time. Marketers played with colours, sounds and even smells. However, this used to be done intuitively or following research which involved only a couple of individuals. With the introduction of emotional analytics, a database of emotional responses is being created. We will be able to analyse patterns, trends and associations in the same way as with the more practical data but on an emotional level. Your emotions are a key determinant of decision making. By combining both types of data the range of marketing possibilities becomes limitless. Brands will understand their consumers even better than they understand themselves. So when will billboard advertising become programatic and based on human emotions?

Although we are unable to predict the future, changes and improvements in technology are occurring all around us and we can’t help but wonder if the collection of data has not already started on a worldwide level. Apple’s iPhone X uses facial recognition for a number of its applications. We can even create our own emojis based of our expressions. Naturally, people give away their personal data because the experience is worth it. For example, Google Maps has tracked our localisation for years, and because it is useful in so many ways we use it without question.

Imagine how easy it is to curate a set of data and set up a benchmark of what each emotion looks like using the information we are providing without any filter. Before we know it, brands will be able to send their message across much more precisely. They will be able to program in advance, when an advert should be exposed on apps or websites based on our facial expression. Little by little, we are providing the bigger corporations with all the information that qualify us as humans. When people realise their data is currency, will they be willing to give it away so easily?

On the other side, the great thing about emotional analytics is that it will not only be just another selling tool. Emotional analytics could be used in the much broader environment, in an attempt to create a better system. For example, there is an opportunity for medical centres to rethink their design and architecture, thanks to all the collected data, in order to make the hospitalisation process less frightening; triggering a positive emotional response by the choice of colours and its layout. We could also use it to improve learning in schools or increase productivity in workplaces.

Eventually, Emotional Analytics’ utility will go beyond the branding industry. For years, consumerism as been at the centre of our society and although this new form of data is primarily being developed for this purpose, it might lead to a global revision of how we design our world.

Imagery credit
“Fragmenta” by Micaela Lattanzio.