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 »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

7 Apps For 7 CMOs: Why Emotion Research Needs Focus

February 24, 2011
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (film)

Polygamy is Out: You've Got to Marry The MR Solution To A Specific Business Need.

I wrote earlier how I believed marketers and market researchers needed a more rational approach to that seemingly irrational subject, the measurement and analysis of emotions. As we better measure these “soft aspects” of human response, we risk losing sight of the fact that an understanding of emotion is not an end in itself: it has to be applied to specific business issues. I have to declare an interest here –  we’ve recently tied up with a company that has created a very clever method of directly recording and analyzing emotional response (more about that later). Even so, I do not think that emotional research of any sort, no matter how science-based, stands up on its own. We all need to start thinking a lot harder about applications, not merely methods.

Fundamentally I think there are seven key areas where understanding emotion better can transform marketing. This is a subject I’ve tackled in a chapter on Emotional Research in a book to be published next year called “Leading Edge Marketing Research” (edited by Bob Kaden and Gerry Linda of  “More Guerrilla Marketing Research” fame).

1.    Emotions act as triggers and create change. Strong emotional response is more likely to create a ‘moment of change’ for consumers than any rational evaluation of benefits. Marketing is becoming increasingly granular as Point of Sales and Guerrilla Marketing tactics supplant top-line advertising. Understanding and describing precise emotional tipping points is vital. We need to get better at understanding how emotions operate in very specific real-world choice situations, so emotional research needs to move beyond both “general purpose survey” and “laboratory” settings. Read the rest of this entry »

Butterflies Don’t Innovate: The Real Innovation Challenge for Market Research.

July 21, 2010

Every so often you will see a discussion where we market researchers, with help from the odd client, beat ourselves up about how lacking in innovation we’ve supposedly become, and how conservative we seem to be as an industry. I’m not quite sure where I stand on the debate about how conservative MR people are, but I’m increasingly sure that we often miss the point about what “innovation” in MR really is, and why it matters.

innovation award

The Award Every Agency Wants - But What Do We REALLY Need To Do To Win It?

My view is that far from being super conservative, most researchers are fascinated by “trends” and new ideas. But too often we mistake “trend-following” for “innovation”. We (and I include myself in this) love to discuss all the latest technologies, techniques and re-packaged jargon,  so we flit like butterflies from one new idea to another, never quite developing their potential or integrating the new techniques with old ones.

It’s not “innovation” we lack, it’s “implementation”. David took that point up in a post last year (see: Innovate  or Ossify) suggesting that the biggest issue is not lack of  innovative ideas per se, as a lack of the right people and skill sets to turn ideas into action.

Read the rest of this entry »


May 4, 2010

I’m getting increasingly emotional about all the loose talk about emotions going around the market research fraternity these days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about some of the new methods for measuring emotional response that are coming out of the areas of cognitive psychology and neuro-science. These offer exciting possibilities. My concern though, is about the over-use and indeed misuse of the term “emotion” in the research context.

Smiling Bee outside hamburger outlet.

Sometimes it takes more than a smile and a positive attitude to get them in the door! (c) A.Gordon 2007.

We risk confusing marketers, and encouraging faddish and poorly thought out research practices. I have three gripes about this. Gripe #1: “Emotional response” is a term so vague that it actually indicates very little of marketing significance on its own. Emotions come in many flavours, strengths and durations of effect. We need to develop considerably more nuanced ways of measuring and understanding these effects.  Gripe #2: Emotion we are told regularly is at the heart of “90%” of  human behaviour”. Yet, if emotion is in effect “everything”, then what is it explaining? Again, emotion as a concept is only useful if we can identify how various types of emotions interact, contradict each other, and interface with rational thought to produce specific kinds of behaviour. Gripe #3: The Freudian fallacy still casts a long shadow over discussions of emotion. Emotional response is too often represented as somehow being necessarily “deeper”, “more important”, or “harder to uncover” than anything from the frontal cortex. This is simply untrue, and unfortunately leads to marketers often taking a simplistic approach to targeting consumers. It’s this third gripe that I want to focus on in this post.

Read the rest of this entry »