Why Consumer Emotions Come First in Human Insights Work

Director of Client Services & Insight Strategist

The correlation between what consumers say they will do and what they actually do can be weak. This is because, at a fundamental level, human beings have evolved to rationalize behavior that is actually driven by our emotional limbic and reptilian brain.

Making matters even more complex, today’s consumers are often overstimulated with extensive product and service options and with marketing messages that invade nearly every moment of their lives. This creates a significant challenge for companies to get consumers’ attention, win a consumer’s choice, and create loyalty.

That’s why it is critical for brands to truly get to the root of feelings and behaviors that may predict choices in the real-world marketplace. This requires the use of less traditional approaches to insights work to get at the non-cognitive and emotional drivers of consumer behavior.

It is critical for brands to truly get to the root of feelings and behaviors that may predict choices in the real-world marketplace. This requires the use of less traditional approaches to insights work to get at the non-cognitive and emotional drivers of consumer behavior.”

Uncovering how consumers feel:

Consumers’ emotional, non-cognitive responses to a product, proposition, and service often drive whether they choose to consume or not. This is independent of whether they are aware of those drivers or not. When it comes to discovering actual buying triggers, researchers must find a way to assess emotions without having a cognitive response that “filters” out the truth. For example:

  • Sharing metaphors or images that represent his/her feedback can circumvent a consumer’s cognitive filter and provide raw emotional responses. Such feedback can be analyzed to understand the emotional and symbolic underpinnings of those images.
  •  Use of biometric measurements, such as facial recognition or galvanic skin response, can capture immediate unfiltered emotional states, like disgust, joy, confusion etc., as well as overall saliency.
  • Implicit and discrete choice methodologies can extract likely behavior based on patterns seen when a consumer quickly makes tradeoff decisions between multiple scenarios.

The best way to know how a consumer behaves is to observe. However, consumers frequently modify their behavior when they know they are being watched. Therefore, it becomes crucial to observe consumers in the most unobtrusive manner possible.

Understanding how consumers behave:

While it might seem overly obvious, the best way to know how a consumer behaves is to observe. However, consumers frequently modify their behavior when they know they are being watched. Therefore, it becomes crucial to observe consumers in the most unobtrusive manner possible. There are two key ways of doing this:

  • Passive digital metering technology can collect real time online behavior across multiple devices.
  • Voice activated devices can be used to collect behaviors and opinions within a consumer’s environment concurrent with an actual use experience. As you think about your human insights work, challenge yourself about how using less traditional techniques to uncover customer feelings and behaviors will result in better outcomes for product development, positioning, and more.

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