New emotional response identifier shakes up the big idea for brands

Australian innovation ‘Prophecy Feeling’ aims to make tapping into non-conscious emotional responses to brands easier than ever before

Australian firm, Forethought, has been granted a US patent for a new technology that implicitly measures discrete emotions in brands, equipping marketers and creatives with a powerful lens to affect their consumers’ behaviour.

The ‘Prophecy Feelings’ technology measures emotional responses through a combination of interactive visual imagery and statistical analysis techniques that identify and isolate individual emotions aroused by brands and communication.

According to Forethought CEO and co-inventor of Prophecy Feelings, Ken Roberts, the front end of Prophecy Feelings works like a gaming interface. There is a calibration stage, where respondents are given a character to find out what they are feeling, before given the stimulus. The respondent is might be shown an ad in-store, in the movies or shops.

“It works on any apparatus, any smartphone, so we can get this measure of emotion fast,” Roberts said. “We have sample sizes that are tens of thousands of people, and they can be done in one weekend.”

While the front end seems rather simplistic at first glance, Roberts claimed it is supported by sophisticated psycho-analytical theories from the likes of neuroscientist, Antoni Damasio, and Harvard Business School professor, Gerald Zaltman, who made the discovery that metaphors are the window into the non-conscious.

“Our method is based on an animation of a metaphor,” Roberts explained. “We can measure how long you take to answer a question, and if you’re taking too long, we know that you’re ruminating and it is becoming a cognitively effortful exercise. But if you’re fast, we know it is a discrete emotional response.”

Clients then see data on the discrete emotion, the relative importance of the discrete emotion, the relative importance of cognitive thoughts and the discrete rational drivers leading to purchase, such as price and quality.

Australian clients in the consumer goods sector adopting this method include Sanitarium, Caltex, Canon, Honda and Nestle. In services, organisations include Coles, Kmart, Lend Lease, Maurice Blackburn, News Limited, Optus, Jetstar and Australian Super.

Bringing rigour back to the big idea

Roberts told CMO this new method is set to bring back rigour to the ‘big idea’ that has traditionally been based on ‘gut instinct’.

“The creative fraternity often use the term ‘big idea’ to talk about the basis of a campaign,” he said. To bring some discipline to the big idea and insights into the situation being addressed, creative agencies then started adding ‘strategic planning’ functions. But Roberts claimed many still largely rely on gut instinct.

Where Prophecy Feelings sits is another step in the road to bringing rigour to the big idea.

Scientifically, Roberts pointed out buyers have rational and emotional reasons for their purchase making decisions. However, while there are methods in place to identify the hierarchy of rational drivers, such as “thoughts or the reasons to believe”, identifying and measuring emotions is an entirely different process, he explained.

“In every decision we make, there is an emotional detonator,” he said. “Our methodology is world first in identifying what is the relative importance of the discrete emotion in purchase behaviour.”

Prophecy Feelings is distinct from traditional facial coding strategies, which look at the facial muscular changes of a person in order to identify emotions, Roberts continued. While this method has proved popular, he claimed it doesn’t provide a causal model for the relative importance of a specific emotion in purchase behaviour.

“Worse than that, it doesn’t tell us emotions like pride - and we find that pride is a really critically important emotion in explaining a lot of purchase behaviour,” he said.

In addition, while neuroscience provides methods of measuring brainwaves, or electronic activity in the brain, Roberts claimed these only identify what is being encoded into the long-term memory and do not show actual drivers of behaviour.

“They don’t tell us what discrete emotions are being experienced,” he said. “They’re good for giving us a second by second assessment of a creative, but they’re not helpful at all in telling the creative fraternity what the emotion should be that they’re actually building into the big idea.”

According to Roberts, the primary focus of Prophecy Feelings is ‘emotional engagement’, which in essence is about aligning the emotion with the purchase of the brand.

“The idea about feelings and emotions is really about the gain of new customers, as opposed to the retention side of the equation,” he said. “With an emotion, you need to continue to illicit that emotion so you can continue strengthening the association of that emotion with your brand. To link a neural pathway between an emotion and your brand, you basically need to set out to associate that brand in perpetuity with that emotion.”

Predicting changes in market share

According to Roberts, clients like Coles and Kmart and Optus have changed their trajectory in their current quarter practically overnight.

“Out of the drivers, we can actually predict the change in market share based on their performance,” he said. “That is why clients are strongly adopting the method, because they can see the change in market share as well as what we predicted the change would be. We’re getting correlations better than 0.8 and in some cases 0.9 in terms of being able to make those predictions.”

Although the new method has proven successful across the board, the challenge for Forethought is getting creative agencies to give up traditional paradigms and thinking around big ideas generation, Roberts said.

“We have so many clients hitting their heads against the wall, and in some cases threatening to terminate the agencies if they don’t stop generating big ideas that are often tangents from what the rational drivers are,” he said. “Quite often in the marketing fraternity we talk about big data, but this is an example of how small data can drive organisations to change market share.”

Want to see how Prophecy Feelings works? Click here

How Kmart uses the pride in influencing consumer purchase

According to Roberts, the positive and negative emotional dichotomy of pride and anxiety, as identified in housewife respondent groups, are prime examples of discrete emotional responses that work well together for brands such as Kmart.

“We identified respondents felt more anxious that they would not live within their means if they were not shopping at discount department stores,” he said. “So they feel less anxious shopping at K-mart and BigW than they do shopping at Myer or David Jones. The other driver is the pride respondents get from successfully living within their means.”

As a result of these findings, Kmart’s ads are deliberately engineered to illicit pride and to minimise anxiety, Roberts said.

“If you look at the 1000 mums or the Bon Bons advertising campaign in the last series of commercials, you’ll see how the creative is deliberately setting about to lowering anxiety and raise pride,” he said.

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