Marketers have long acknowledged that customer behavior is driven by a combination of rational thought and pure emotion. While brands have found it relatively easy to measure rational drivers, such as price and availability, it is far more complicated to grasp the emotional side – the perceptions and feelings that influence customer thinking and motivate their behavior.

In the past, brands have relied on self-reporting and direct observation to gauge their customers’ emotional reaction to content and experiences. But these methods can be imprecise and are subject to interpretation. However, advances in biometric technology have allowed researchers to directly measure an individual’s emotions, making it possible to more accurately measure a consumer’s authentic response to brand communication.


Despite the tremendous potential that emotion insights hold for marketers, many brands still hesitate to utilize these new technologies. Here we explore three reasons why businesses should consider incorporating emotion insights into their creative process.

Emotion insights provide deeper and more specific information for marketers.

Perhaps the easiest way to explain the value of emotion insights is with a real-world example. SapientNitro recently worked with a financial services brand to determine which of three brand videos it should use for an upcoming campaign. While the creative team highlighted the same customer benefits and brand promise in each video, the three options contained variations in script, music and voiceover.

Without emotion insights, we might have conducted survey, interview, or even focus group research to allow participants to self-report the emotions they felt about each video. We might have also directly observed people watching the videos. These methods would have given the company a general sense of the way participants felt about the videos and may have even given them ideas for how to optimize the top performing video to maximize the brand’s desired response – but we could not do so with any scientific certainty.

However, when we added facial coding to our strategy, we suddenly had deeper, more specific insights to work with. Using this technology, we discovered that the female voiceover in one video was the most emotionally resonant, driving happiness up and fear down. We were also able to identify that visual representations of the tagline drove further increases in positive sentiment. Finally, we realized that certain content types (photos) and themes (churches) showcased throughout the video were causing happiness and engagement dips – thereby informing further edits of the selected video.


Using this information, we were then able to optimize our communications. We could test the emotional response to the revised video to make before-and-after comparisons. We could also leverage the emotion scores from the facial coding exercise and correlate them with the engagement generated in response to the video. With that information, we were able to know exactly what mix of emotions to target in future videos and other types of brand messaging.

Emotion insights allow marketers to capture and create authentic experiences.

In keeping with our digital brand video example, it’s important to consider the authenticity of our results. A common challenge for marketers is to understand what their target audiences are really thinking. There is often a vast difference between what people can articulate and their actual experience. In our example, it’s unlikely that the financial brand would have discovered that one female voice drove happiness because participants were probably unaware of their response. Facial coding made this insight possible.

This is the true value of emotion insights: they allow us to tap into authentic, unconscious experiences with brand environments, thereby unpacking the complexity of emotion that is present and what the conscious mind cannot share. They can be used to create emotionally resonant moments through responsive environments that deeply connect with our target.

emotion_quoteEmotion insights drive up-to-the-second outcomes.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for marketers to generate up-to-the-second insights on emotions, particularly around isolated components, such as brand promise or tag-line. Without the use of emotion insights, consumers are more likely to report their overall feelings on the video once it concluded, as opposed to the individual pieces that marketers wish to assess.

Marketers know that when it comes to digital branded content, every second matters. By using emotion insights techniques to detect changes in emotional response to marketing experiences, we are able to determine the customer’s feelings from second to second and isolate their reactions to key points, such as the value proposition and messaging. They also allow responsive environments to act on changes in emotion, driving experiential changes in the moments when specific emotions unfold.

SapientNitro’s recent point of view, Leveraging Emotion Insights to Drive Experiential Return, explores the mechanics of some of the leading emotion insights applications, such as facial coding, galvanic skin response, and electroencephalography. It also offers recommendations for how businesses can begin to incorporate this technology into their creative process. To download the report, click here.

As brands continue to invest in responsive environments, the demand for more precise and holistic emotion insights will only increase. That’s something that our clients are very excited about… We can tell.

By Melissa Read, PhD, Global Emotion Insights Head, SapientNitro Atlanta