Spotlight: Emotive Analytics

emotive analytics

Ivy Exec recently reached out to Emotive Analytics, to learn more about the St. Louis-based Market Research Firm.

Emotive Analytics is a consumer research company that assess emotional dynamics of consumer behavior – including those [emotional dynamics] that are nonconscious. These areas of study – emotions and the nonconscious (a.k.a., System 1) – have arguably become the greatest areas of interest among marketers in the past year or two.

How was Emotive Analytics founded?

Emotive Analytics was conceived in 2002 after Paul Conner began seeing, from research coming out of psychology and neuroscience, that emotions and feelings are the true drivers of human behavior, including consumer behavior. In other words, psychologists and neuroscientists were finding that “we do what we do, we buy what we buy, because our emotions and feelings tell us to.” This was not just for some types of behavior, but all types. Therefore, all purchase decisions, whether for stereotypically emotional products such as greeting cards or jewelry, or for stereotypically unemotional products such as hardware or paper clips, are driven by emotions and feelings. (Note: “Rationality”, or “thinking”, enters into some of our decisions, but even our thoughts are examined by our emotions to tell us which thoughts will be best for our well-being.) Jonathan Turner in On the Origins of Human Emotions put it most succinctly when saying, “To select among alternatives requires some way to assess the relative value of these alternatives, and this ability to assess alternatives is tied to emotions. Emotions give each alternative a value and, thereby, provide a yardstick to judge and select among alternatives.”

In addition to the insight that emotions and feelings drive behavior, psychology and neuroscience were also showing that they can and often do so “nonconsciously.” In other words, we may not be aware of what we’re feeling or how that’s influencing our behavior. (Another word for this nonconscious influence is “implicitly.”)

Given these findings from psychology and neuroscience, Emotive Analytics was born, officially in 2004. (The gestation period was long because there was much to learn and put into place!)

Emotive Analytics’ official mission is as follows:

We are a consumer research company that assesses the emotional dynamics of consumer behavior – including those that are nonconscious. In doing so, we help companies develop emotionally engaging brands, products, services, and their marketing.

Further detail about Emotional Dynamics is as follows:

Emotional Dynamics are the experience > cognition > affect chains that produce human behavior, explaining why people do what they do. They are illustrated in the following framework, which directs the studies we conduct.

Emotional Dynamics

The framework says that things happen to us. We have experiences. In response, we feel and think things, which become experiences themselves. Experiences, affect, and cognitions keep “interacting” until decisions and behavior result. Affect is what ultimately drives behavior, triggered by experiences and cognitions. And all of this can happen both implicitly (nonconsciously) and explicitly (consciously). Furthermore, because behavior is influenced both implicitly and explicitly, to be most effective we need research methods that address each.

What are your company’s main differentiators within the Market Research space?

We are different than many market research companies for the reasons behind our formation and mission. First, we focus on studying emotions and feelings. (Many companies do that, but not all.) Second, and even more differentiating, we assess the nonconscious, implicit emotions and feelings that drive consumer behavior. (Some companies also do that, but many fewer.) We have developed specialized techniques to do that because traditional research techniques (e.g., traditional surveys, focus groups, etc.) do not assess implicit emotionality.

We are changing the face of market research by bringing these “implicit emotional assessment tools and insights” to marketers. As more and more marketers are understanding the importance of emotions and feelings, especially nonconscious emotions and feelings, we help them assess these dynamics toward improving their desired business outcomes – like increased sales.

Importantly, we do this from a sound behavioral science foundation. Many market researchers have jumped on the bandwagon with tools that don’t have sound implicit backing. However, we bring expert behavioral scientists to our studies, ensuring the quality of the work we do. For example, our primary behavioral science associate for implicit association measurement is Dr. Keith Payne from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Dr. Payne is a pioneer in this area of study, having invented the Affect Misattribution Procedure, a highly respected and validated implicit measure.

Another differentiator is Emotive Analytics’ use of The AIM Process, a systematic, stepwise procedure for improving the actionability of marketing research. Conner invented and published a book about The AIM Process, and uses it to design all research studies.

The AIM Process is an overarching framework that helps us determine study design. “AIM” stands for “applications, information, methods” and is a simple, but effective approach to create a research study with “teeth.” Having teeth means that AIM Process studies start and end with Applications – the decisions and actions marketers have to make on the basis of the research. Many times, a research buyer will approach a research firm with requests for methods (e.g., focus groups) or information needed. They don’t have a firm idea of the decisions they want or need to make. The AIM Process requires that, improving the actionability of the research upon its completion.

Where do your company’s best ideas come from?

Our best ideas come from two areas.

First, we use The AIM Process to design all our studies. As stated previously, this helps us design highly effective studies and our clients walk away with focused and highly supported decisions and actions.

Second, we stay abreast of the latest in the behavioral sciences related to emotions/feelings and nonconscious/implicit processing. For example, we continue to adapt Payne’s Affect Misattribution Procedure to consumer research applications. Most recently, we’re finding ways to adapt this measure not only to consumer stimuli that are visual (e.g., the “look” of brand logos, the “look” of package designs, the “look” of print ads, etc.), but also to consumer stimuli that use other senses, like the sense of smell. This adaptation helps sensory product development beyond the sense of sight. For a detailed example, see the following article that we recently published in the NMSBA’s Insights: Measuring Implicit Emotional Associations with Non-Visual Sensory Stimuli: An Example Using Tropical Fragrances.

Furthermore, in our best studies, we combine methods from different areas of behavioral science (e.g., neuroscience, social psychology, clinical psychology, and anthropology) to provide information from different lenses, which give us greater chances of finding important insights.

What are your areas of focus within market research?

Our areas of focus – emotions/feelings and nonconscious, implicit, System 1 processes – operate across all types of people. So, Ivy Execs are no better suited for these areas of investigation than any other type of consumer (B2C or B2B). However, Ivy Exec sample can be useful for understanding how more upscale react emotionally to certain products and services. For instance, several years ago, we conducted an Emotional Profile Study for a resort. Potential resort customers were higher income, more upscale people, so Ivy Execs would have been good respondents for that study.

In addition, some academically-oriented marketing research shows that upscale (and more material-minded) people are more image conscious than less endowed people. Being more image conscious often leads to traditional survey responses concerned with self-presentation, therefore either don’t see or deny automatic System 1 thoughts and feelings. Our methods may be able to uncover these “hidden” influences among Ivy Execs better than among other types of people.

What examples of recent projects can you share that exemplifies Emotive Analytics’ work and capabilities?

First is a study mentioned earlier. We used an adaptation of Payne’s Affect Misattribution Procedure to reveal automatic, implicit emotional associations people had with a variety of tropical fragrances. This helped our client (a fragrance manufacturer for large CPG companies) make better decisions of what tropical fragrances delivered the objectives for a fragrance they were looking for. For details of that study, once again see our article in NMSBA’s Insights: Measuring Implicit Emotional Associations with Non-Visual Sensory Stimuli: An Example Using Tropical Fragrances.

A second study, for a major financial products company, dealt with assessing implicit and explicit associations with companies they were considering as endorsement partners. For instance, XYZ Company endorses our Client Company for financial services. Before agreeing to partner with these endorsement companies, our clients wanted to know what people thought of them – both explicitly and implicitly – across a range of strategically selected attributes (like honest, dependable, high quality, simple, etc.). They used the information to choose endorsement partners that were like them in their associations profiles or offered them opportunities to enhance their image by being associated with them. In this study, we developed profiles for 32 potential endorsement partners for our client.

What advice would you offer to those in our community who participate in market research projects?

Don’t try to “out-think” the data collection process, which really means the questions you’re being asked and how they’re being asked. Most of the time the questions are well-conceived and serve purposes that you may not be completely aware of. I recommend to just go with the flow, clear your mind, and answer questions as asked. Related to that, try not to be critical of the process.

In addition, as you complete surveys, make sure you take the time to read the instructions and question text carefully. Many times, respondents skip through important instructions, so when they get to the questions they’re being asked or tasks they’re being asked to complete, they don’t understand them, do them wrong, or criticize them.

What are you most excited about in 2017?

Our primary initiative will be IE Pro YOU®, our automated, online, DIY platform for measuring implicit (and explicit) associations. This is a great tool that allows clients to conduct these powerful studies at their own working locations quickly and affordably. For more information, see our white paper here.

In addition, we plan to take implicit measurement further into areas that assess implicit emotional reactions to non-visual sensory stimuli – smells, tastes, sounds, and tactile feels. We have an exclusive relationship with Q Research Solutions to use our methods for their sensory testing, which includes fragrances and tastes.

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