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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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 »


Professional Development – you don’t know what you don’t know!

May 2, 2012

Having recently assumed the chair of the AMSRS’s Professional Development Program, the first thing that struck me was the enormous range and diversity of subject matter one has to command these days to be a truly effective market researcher. The extent of knowledge required makes it even more important to encourage continuous learning if we are to retain the value of MR as a profession in both the commercial and social sphere.

At the risk of over-simplifying, there wasn’t that much to learn in the late 70s to early 80s. If you were capable of questionnaire design, understood stats and a bit of sampling, could analyse data, and maybe present with some coherence you could work in a research company. Read On..>


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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Emotionally Preaching To The Converted

January 16, 2012

New Year, new start. As some of you who know us will realise, one of the reasons our blog postings have stuttered in recent months is that we’ve been far too emotional. Or at least far too involved in telling clients, MR and ad agencies about why emotional marketing matters, and why it’s not quite what they thought it was.

Preaching To The Converted: More Useful Than You Think?

We thought therefore, we’d start 2012 with a series of posts on what we think is the most important development in modern market research: our increasingly accurate ability to tap into consumer emotions.

In particular, we want to do our bit to move discussion of emotion measurement from methods and applications towards the more important area of marketing implications. Why measuring emotion accurately really matters.
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A Market Research Dream – Or is it a Nightmare?

April 14, 2011
Rhizome awardophilia . .

Tomorrows MR Gurus? All Question Answered, No Need For Survey or FGD! (Image by jef safi via Flickr)

Market Researchers are perpetually speculating on the future of MR; at times it is said, as a defence mechanism to save thinking about what needs doing today. In my view, this speculation falls between two extremes – expecting too much change (generally we under-rate institutional inertia in ourselves and our clients), or not anticipating enough (there will be some developments we cannot even begin to imagine).

Yet, there are stirrings in our profession of some genuinely revolutionary changes that will transform the lives of research’s next generation. These are not so much based in the oft heard predictions on new ways to access people’s thoughts (neuroscience, social media research etc.), but on the application of theory and modelling to understand and make sense of such thoughts. What then, might the future look like? Read the rest of this entry »