Miruna Codeanu

Measuring Emotions in the World of Big Data

In espresso on October 10, 2014 at 6:18 am

4171023939_6ffe5d23d4_zI’ve spent the last two days at Internet & Mobile World, a local event dealing with online and mobile trends from a marketing, business and IT perspective. There are some major trends and debates right now, things we’re all dealing with. Today I will address one of them: Big Data. We’re collecting, monitoring and measuring everything, in order to figure out later what we’re going to do what that data. The same happens for Facebook, Google and all the major online social networks. Ask me, none of the big players in this market has yet found a way to use data at its full potential.

Another problem appears: Big Data is not enough. By measuring online behavior you will not necessarily know what consumers actually want or need. Measuring and tracking tools will not keep track of irony, self irony, display consumerism and other things humans do. The example given by one of the speakers was that his children were hitting the like button of a page just because it was considered outdated and not trendy anymore so they were making an anti-statement. That was an ironical “like”, although metrics might tell you that your brand suddenly became popular. Solution: you must go beyond that, use additional methods in order to measure the “honesty” of your consumers. Top that with the ongoing concern about privacy and the rise of anonymity on the internet and you’re gonna think we’re a bit lost at the moment. 

Here’s the deal: from the beginning of marketing till present days gathering information on consumers was never easy, and never 100% accurate. If we look back to how targeting was made in the age of old media it may seem that those people had no clue about what they were doing. Yet there are case studies about successful campaigns in the age of print, radio and television. Truth is, you will never have 100% accurate information on your consumers. You can, however, try to get as close to 100% as possible. The debate went on to defending focus groups as an additional tool to have more insights into your consumers, adding more depth to online data. Focus groups have their faults as much as online data. People sense what the desirable answer is, there are professional focus groups attendees, and so on. Actually, any additional study and more in depth research of your consumer will help you: it may be as simple as raising a red flag there where the information is not accurate, or you can cross check your data for more relevant results. Any additional research will definitely help you. I just feel like adding a few, actually two more things.

Measuring emotions. Measuring emotions through micro expressions is one of the most accurate methods in the field of consumer sociology at this point of our existence. Eye tracking and micro expressions measurements is a present technology that can be used to cross check your online data. True, for the time being it is accessible to only a few companies. While we’re able to control what we express through words, we’re not very much able to control our raw emotions, eye movements and micro expressions, which makes this particular tool more accurate that some. A very big percentage of our decisions are actually emotional: we know we like or don’t like something, and then we actually formulate an argument for our option. Let’s say you need a product for which you are willing to spend $10. Product A looks lovely and reminds you of something from your childhood. It costs exactly $10. Product B doesn’t impress you much, it costs $7, it is an good product for the money. Oh my, and product C…product C is lovely, it reminds of all the pleasant things in your life, it makes you think you can change the world, impress everybody and go to heaven, but it costs $20 which is so out of the way for you. Statistically speaking, most of us are going to choose product A, even though product B is cheaper but we’re willing to spend the maximum budget even there’s a cheaper option available, if we like that product. This is 5 seconds choice and as we’re adding the product to our basket we’re going to formulate a theory on how product A is a better choice than product B. In a focus group we’re going to express that theory, which of course it will lead us to the same result: product A is more desirable than product B or product. However, when measuring micro expressions we’re going to see what exactly attracts our consumer in that product, we’re going to see it is pure emotion, and actually a theory about saving money or value of the product within the given budget. For the time being the technology is not quite available, but with the rise of facial wearable will definitely become a trend.

Anthropological tools. Don’t ever believe what your consumers tell you if you can actually observe them doing. We are supposed to be rational beings using a higher percentage of our brain than most of our companionship on this planet. We are, only that we don not necessarily make choices based on our rationality. Making reason a constant criteria in the decision making process is a trained and not a born capability. The human mind is a complex space where we constantly rewrite our memories in order to  make us look us prettier in front of ourselves. Let’s go back to product A, B and C. The person buying product C will be an anomaly in the buying process, you might be tempted to say that person buying product C is not important to you, as it would be 10% of the market share. However, person buying product C means more money for you, so it is recommended that you find out more about the persona buying product C. Person buying product C might hide the true reasons for which she is buying that particular product. It might be because she wants to be seen buying product C, because product C is a status indicator for her, or it might be because she has health problems and product C has the best ingredients for her, being an informed consumer. This is the kind of information for which the only methods available are anthropological methods. You could actually ask for this person’s permission to see how they use product C and you might be surprised to see that they are using product C in some totally other ways then it was designed to, and voila, here’s another market for you. Again, this is scarcely done at the time being, although, personally I’m advocate of relevant information versus quantitative information.

As a conclusion, people lie, generally speaking, on the internet, as well as to face to face. The motivation can be different, it may be to protect their privacy, to protect others, etc. No method is bulletproof. What we can do is to try get more accurate information. We definitely need as much information as we can get. Although, online data is big, it is not enough. And for the guys thinking we, marketers, are the devil of this world, again we’re just trying to make products more relevant for you. Irrelevant products for you, mean wasted money for us. I know, you’re probably going to give me the example of people who lived without this and that 100 years ago. 100 years ago, a human being’s life expectancy wasn’t 80 years (Western Europe and Northern America). 


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