The New Face of Market Research: Human Analytics

Facial_recognition.jpgWhere would Wheaties be without Michael Jordan? Taco Bell without Gidget, the talking Chihuahua? Or even the “Can you hear me now?” guy from Verizon Wireless? These spokespeople are iconic. They have helped brands personify themselves, leaving lasting and memorable impressions on their target consumers. So, what do a sports legend, a Spanish speaking dog and a tech nerd with glasses have in common? Likeability.

We know that now because these characters successfully sold cereal, tacos and cellphone plans for years, but what if we rewound to a time before these spots aired, or we fast-forwarded to the beginning of the next big product launch? Would it be that easy to predict someone’s likeability? To confirm that an audience was going to respond the way you had hoped? To have confidence that your brand was choosing the right image?

For years, brands (and market research companies on their behalf) have been using tried-and-true methods such as surveys or in-person focus groups to gather data on their consumer’s perceptions, beliefs and feelings toward their products and marketing campaigns. This approach has worked and gotten the market research industry far — but is it telling the whole story?

What people say on a survey or in a focus group is not always aligned with what they really think. For a variety of reasons, whether it be peer pressure, social norms, embarrassment, lack of understanding, or a dozen other variables, sometimes someone’s verbal response doesn’t represent the whole truth. Other times, survey respondents may share honest feedback, but their feedback doesn’t help you pinpoint where there might be gaps. Consumers may generally like something, but not love everything about it.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know exactly where the holes exist?

So, How Do You Really Feel?

The study of emotional responses is fascinating because it looks at people’s unbiased, non-verbal, subconscious reactions. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well, so is a face. Even the most nuanced, subtle facial gestures can uncover someone’s true feelings — or even more interestingly, watching someone react to someone else’s response can be equally telling.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty details of what people like and don’t like about your brand, your new product, your tagline and even your spokesperson can mean the difference of millions of dollars. And speaking of dollars, even when it comes to how you price your product, people can’t always tell you what they think about pricing, because they don’t think about pricing. They feel it.

Emotion Analysis isn’t new — researchers have been studying it for years. One of the leaders in the study of human emotion, Dr. Paul Ekman, discovered in all his years of research, that emotion is universal across people and even cultures. A smile is a smile, a frown is a frown — some are more emotive, some are more muted — but the reaction someone has to similar events can transcend culture. Based on this, we can apply emotion analysis to any scenario in the modern world and use it to help explain in more detail how people really feel.

My company, Kairos, uses emotion detection to help other companies understand their audiences, tracking the six universal emotions (joy, sadness, surprise, anger, fear, and disgust) across faces. Just recently, we worked with a major consumer product goods company to help them make the critical decision about whether a celebrity of the past was still relevant. Would this person help or hurt the brand? Was it worth the money to hire them as a spokesperson? ROI is everything for businesses. Production costs, talent cost, media buys, they all add up. It’s important to make sure those costs are going to lead to positive revenues, and in this case, it did. No one can say for sure whether something is going to top or flop — but having affirmation from human analytics that watch every muscle movement a face makes, can certainly be helpful.

Another example comes from the movie industry and working with a production studio to help them understand what movie trailers are going to be most effective. What part of the full feature lost people’s attention? Which characters were likeable, and which ones weren’t? What audiences connected with what parts of the film? Creating the best version of content for the right audience, especially for marketing purposes, can change the bottom line at the box office.

Human Analytics for the Modern World

Facial recognition and emotion detection can help companies understand people and how they interact with their environment. Measuring Human Metrics, such as presence, reach, sentiment and engagement, provides insight that can help answer critical business questions:

  • What do our customers want?
  • Have our customers come back?
  • Which [X] should we use?
  • What will our customers likely do?

At the end of the day, researchers are trying to get to the bottom of a seemingly simple, yet incredibly complex question — what do customers want and why?

Facial coding as a technology is disrupting the market research industry in what appears to be a very positive way. You’re getting to a deeper level of truth, and you’re able to do it from anywhere, including from someone’s own home, using only a webcam.

Every day we’re introduced to new things. The world keeps getting bigger and more advanced, and every time we turn around there’s a new decision to be made. With more and more choices available, what we think we want can become fuzzy. But, no matter what, our gut, our intuition, and our subconscious emotional reactions often guide us in the direction of what we actually want. Our emotions are our compass. And for a business, a successful business, it’s all about making bets on human behavior. Let’s increase those odds shall we?

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About the Author

Stefanie Genauer is the Chief Revenue Officer at Kairos, a human analytics platform.

Topics: Market Research Strategy Marketing