FEATURE18 August 2011

What is love, anyway?

Behavioural science

Ian Addie, Nunwood’s innovation director explores the thorny issue of emotional engagement through the medium of Orangina.


“Emotions don’t stem from facts… Emotions are intangible and are hard to pin down.”
Matt Haig, Brand Royalty

Haig, for me, got that spot on – trying to pin down emotions is a mammoth, and often fruitless, task. The ever elusive quest to get consumers to fall blindly, devotedly, head-over-heels in love with your products is not something for which you can just write an easy-to-follow five-point plan, guaranteed to have loyal customers swooning in the shopping aisles at the briefest glimpse of your company logo.

It is, however, the challenge that makes this so fascinating. How do you get your customers to feel like that about your washing powder or tinned macaroni cheese?

When we begin to dig beneath the surface, the ethereal nature of emotions can get the better of us. It’s difficult to describe what an emotion is, let alone measure it.

So for market researchers seeking to understand the emotional connections between consumers and the products and services they engage with, this is a thorny old subject.

“When we begin to dig beneath the surface, the ethereal nature of emotions can get the better of us. It’s difficult to describe what an emotion is, let alone measure it”

When we ask people what emotions are, we generally receive back terms such as love, hate, anger, jealousy, sadness, happiness or desire. Digging deeper we may understand that an emotion such as love is described by people in terms of a feeling – one that may be manifested into sensations such as increased heart rate, breathlessness and tingling skin.

There is a growing weight of evidence that it is these types of sensations which enable us, as individuals, to evaluate a situation and make effective decisions.

Consequently, alongside measurements of brain activity, measuring physiological reactions has seen a renaissance as part of the toolkit of the neuromarketer – in line with the growth of neuromarketing, the marketing world has witnessed an increasing interest in understanding emotions.

Take me, for example. I absolutely love Orangina. I’m not just rather partial to a drop of the stuff, I genuinely love it. In fact, I have been a devotee to the soft drink for more than half of my life. It is an affinity that, if anything, seems to gain strength the older I get.

When I see the iconic orange shaped bottle on a shelf I undoubtedly experience a physiological response which consciously or subconsciously my brain interprets positively. In short, I’m a happier man with a bottle of Orangina.

Measuring my heart rate, skin conductance, pupil dilation or even brain activity would enable the neuromarketer to isolate my response and conclude that I have this emotional link to the brand, and so such measures offer strong potential to evaluate branding, communications and new products.

This isn’t, however, a response in isolation. There is a reason for this – and in the case of my affinity to Orangina, this stems back to memorable family holidays in France during my childhood. Now, decades on from those trips to Brittany, the associations I hold for Orangina continue to produce the same reactions in me. For others, these physiological reactions may not be present, but for me I’m sure they will remain with me when I am long retired.

So measurements of physiological change and brain activity can provide direct evidence of emotional engagement with a brand – but they do not tell us how and why this emotional engagement has come about.
For this we need to employ additional tools.

It’s much easier for people to articulate emotions through pictures rather than through a reliance on words.

Exploring, with consumers, the meanings and purpose of pictures that they select, enables researchers to uncover the basis for the physiological measurements which the neuromarketer may isolate when testing a brand stimulus.

Increasingly, through advances in online research tools and unstructured data analysis techniques, this no longer needs be restricted to small qualitative consumer samples – as such, we can establish a greater understanding of the essence of a brand that elicits positive emotion.

This is where that insight can prove so important. It can feed into creative marketing and communication activity, in order to reinforce psychological associations which drive that positive emotional reaction.

Now, I need an Orangina…

1 Comment

13 years ago

Very valid points & good article. I like the reference to the fact that our life's experiences impact greatly on our perceptions and emotions we have towards brands (something that many brands tend to forget actually). You left out one really effective way to measure emotions though; Facial Coding. Darwin first recognised the idea of Facial Coding back in 1872, and it's now widely used to distinguish between a number of our core emotions... including the happiness you experience when sipping on some Orangina :-)

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