Facial Imaging: The “Big-Data” Solution for Emotion Research?

September 2, 2013

We are entering an era where, thanks to technology like facial imaging, “soft-data” on emotions – traditionally the province of qualitative studies or smaller scale specialised surveys –  will become “big-data” that provides very hard results.

Facial Imaging Embeded & Automatic: nViso API in Cinemax site - 1 million views and counting

Facial Imaging Embedded & Automatic: nViso API in Cinemax site – 1 million visitors and counting

At first glance facial imaging (or “facial coding”) seems like just another variant of Neuroscience testing, but in fact it has some very different features. In earlier posts we’ve written extensively on the results obtained from this technology (e.g. see “Soft-Drinks, Soft-Sell“), but in this post I want to get across the point that the really big news is not so much how well facial imaging measures emotion, but how many people and how much emotion can be measured.  This makes it fundamentally different from hardware dependent methodologies like EEG or conventional survey based methods. Two thought experiments for market researchers might illustrate: Read the rest of this entry »

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Emotion, Mothers & Milk: What Emotion Research Tells Us About Conveying Facts To Worried Mums.

August 7, 2013

Nothing resonates so emotionally with a mother as a threat to her baby. Food safety and quality concerns with infant foods have huge impact and, these days, any issue is quickly picked up and broadcast (often in simplified or exaggerated forms) over social media. Rumours spread and reputations sink. In 2008, a Melamine contamination of Sanlu brand baby formulas in China had a major impact on mothers’ perceptions of product quality especially for local brands. As I write, another infant milk contamination issue has hit Asia, this time traced to problems with powder produced by New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra. Coincidentally, AsiaEmotion has been evaluating emotional reaction to Growing-Up milk advertising in Asia, and the results have some clear lessons for those trying to rebuild confidence in the sector. (AsiaEmotion is a large scale, Pan-Asian exploration of Asian consumers emotional response to advertising, carried out by Gordon & McCallum and Cimigo ulitlising nViso’s 3D Facial Imaging technology to directly measure emotions evoked. More details can be found in earlier articles on this site, or at www.asiaemotion.com).

  feihe_facts

(Growing-Up Milk Ad: Experts give Chinese Mums the facts about quality – but puts them to sleep?)

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While the direct health consequences of the current problem seem to likely be limited, the fact that New Zealand has a “clean green” image in Asia and that it supplies milk powder both for its own brands and for other manufacturers means that the impact on reputation and trust may yet affect the whole category. What should a brand owner do under these circumstances? Clearly the first steps, learnt over many years and numerous PR disasters, are apology and transparency. Fonterra’s CEO is in China right now, doing just that. But as the public health problem fades, the issues for brands will become marketing ones: rebuilding trust and reinforcing or reigniting perceptions of quality.

I’m going to focus on a couple of Growing-Up Milk ads from China.One is for a local brand Fei He, seemingly intended to prove it is substantive, concerned with quality, and essentially  as good as “international brands” in all important respects. The other is for Dumex and is aimed at conveying its international status, reputation, and “gold standard” brand heritage. (To see the ads, and the emotive response to them,  you can click on Feihe and Dumex Gold). These commercials can be seen as a response to the earlier Melamine scandal, in that the brand owners clearly see Chinese mothers as needing reassurance about quality and reputation. Both however, appear to have failed to engage consumers, particularly in the key message sequences.  In the current context this matters – over coming months brands are going to have to convey some fairly clear messages about brand quality and reputation.  So what lessons do these ads give us.

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Soft Drinks, Soft Sell – Emotional Engagement & the Chinese Consumer

July 2, 2013

Over the next few months we’ll be blogging a special series revealing the findings from AsiaEmotion, a pan-Asia study on everyday advertising in the region’s key markets. AsiaEmotion recorded emotional response to ads directly and scientifically using nViso’s breakthrough 3D Facial Imaging technology and so is about how people actually felt as they watched, not what they said they felt after the event.
The study, completed earlier this year with leading Asian research agency Cimigo, covered 150 typical consumers in each of China, India, Vietnam, Hong Kong, & Indonesia across 75 recent and typical day-to-day commercials in high ad spend categories covering: Noodles, Shampoo, Telecom, Beer, CSD, Growing Up/Health Food Milks. The key regional takeouts can be found at 9 Essentials for Advertising in Asia on the AsiaEmotion website.
Today we’ll compare a couple of soft drink ads from China, promoting iconic brands Coke and Sprite. Click the links to view the ads and some top line analysis – Coca-Cola and Sprite. Read the rest of this entry »


Men & Women Watching Ads – Different Markets or Different Species?

June 22, 2012

The more I look at the patterns of response to advertising revealed by facial imaging the more I’m convinced that the old “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus” chestnut has validity. (Facial Imaging is the direct measurement of emotion via webcams – see www.nviso.ch if you want to know how it works).  In essence major contrasts in reaction are the norm in the ads we’ve studied and this seems to hold across cultures and is not confined to the obvious categories like cars or alcohol. Yes, MR studies have often noted gender differences, but I’m not referring merely to broad reaction to the ad but the fact that the level, pattern and type of emotional reaction to specific elements of the commercial can differ wildly.

Women (pink line) React To An Ad With Lots of Baby Shots. OK for a while, but get it wrong and you lose them.

Even when the overall  response of males and females is pretty similar (e.g. as measured by self-reported liking, impact etc.) the norm is that you’ll find that the build of emotion and reaction to specific scenes diverges markedly. While I’d be the first to admit we need to do a lot more systematic analysis to back up my initial assessments, I’m increasingly of the view that this has huge implications for advertising and research. Read the rest of this entry »


Watching and Listening – An Alternative to Direct Questioning?

April 10, 2012

In the early 90’s, the ‘tagline’ of a leading Japanese agency’s brochure was ‘the key to understanding was to read between the lines of what was not said’. Two decades later, Shobha Prasad re-visited the issue focusing on the layering and subtleties of Asian languages in ‘Listening to the Sounds of Silence’ at ESOMAR’s APAC Conference.

As Asia grows more healthy, wealthy, and wired, superficially its consumers resemble their Western counterparts. Sometimes even, having leapfrogged technological lifecycles, they appear more advanced. Nevertheless, although these new trappings bring an almost ‘stateless’ vocabulary to the world’s languages, the fundamental challenges of interpreting local cultural nuance and international comparisons remain.

Direct questioning methods is felt to be (even) less effective in Asia due to language structure, cultural norms, and social convention. Asian consumers are often not so forthcoming with opinions than Western ones – although researchers in Mumbai or Manila may well disagree. The real issue, though, is the huge variety of expression, both verbally and visually. As well as vocabulary and sentence structure, different expressions also support communication. Cultures displaying emotion less conservatively usually have the mouth as the main focus; a culture that masks its feelings focuses more subtly on the eyes when determining emotion. So, visual cues can be equally important to gauge underlying sentiments. Read On..>


The Landscape Of Emotion

February 22, 2012

Measuring emotion is increasingly straightforward – interpreting the results still requires some intellectual subtlety.

Emotion, and the research techniques that measure it, remain hot topics in market research. Many of you will have read of Brainjuicer’s Valentine’s day card to Millward Brown, celebrating the latter’s purported “embracing” of emotion as a key marketing driver. A lot of fun for those of us that are observers of course, but leaving aside the question of whether this unduly caricatures Millward-Brown’s approach to emotional analysis, I detect in the discussion, another caricature: the reduction of ‘emotion’ to something simplistic and monolithic. If only we can measure this emotion stuff, we will ‘have the answer’. Maybe, if we can find the right emotional measurement machine we researchers can all retire?

As some of you know, David and I are working (with nViso SA of Switzerland) with exactly that: an “emotional measurement machine” that directly measures people’s emotional response to stimuli via a method called 3D Facial Imaging. Here’s a chart based on 3D Facial Imaging data – I’ll explain it’s significance later in this post, for the moment just note we can directly measure specific types of emotive response with a standard computer and webcam.

Hills & Valleys in The Landscape of Emotion (See Below for Explanation)

This is, I would argue, much more accurate and granular than any questionnaire based method. Yet, despite being thrilled by the results we are obtaining, I would not argue that we have reached some sort of  “deus ex machinamoment, where researchers and subtle interpretation become redundant.

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Simple, Scalable and in Shanghai: The future of research?

September 22, 2011

Allow me to blow my trumpet a little: David and I recently presented at the AMSRS conference in Sydney on automated facial imaging – the content must have been worthy, as it earned the ESOMAR-sponsored “Best Presented Paper” Award. But, truth be told, we felt the driver of the award was probably people’s excitement at seeing how much detailed information on emotional response to marketing stimuli can be delivered by a system that just ‘watches human faces over a webcam’. This is illustrated below:

Facial Imaging: From Faces to Reports, No Questions Asked!

The appeal of such systems also came up in a discussion I had recently with a senior colleague that was spurred by news of events at EmSense:  http://www.neurosciencemarketing.com/blog/articles/r-i-p-emsense.htm. While things may yet turn out for the best, it did seem to us that selling a system based on sophisticated hardware to US customers, in these tough times, cannot have been easy. As we tossed around the issues, it seemed apparent that as clients become ever more cost-focused and have to deal with massive amounts of data from multiple sources they become increasingly obsessed with research services that are both scalable and simple to implement and interpret.

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