Customer Experience, Brand Strategy

Emotion – Not a Matter for Expert Judgement

Posted 11 Nov 2020
Emotion not a matter for expert judgement

It is common for marketers to characterise advertising as either 1) mainly emotional, brand building, top of the funnel or 2) rational, performance, bottom of the funnel.

Consider this though: if neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio PhD was correct that only a mere 5% of emotions become a feeling and then proceed to become a conscious feeling – how exactly do marketing experts assess the emotional “power” of marketing communications?

Most of the commentary on the efficacy of marketing communications hinges on the ability to assess what is an emotional, brand building communication. Indeed, the Binet and Field IPA report based on advertising award entries, ‘The Long and the Short of it’ claims an ability to categorise communications as primarily rational or emotional.

Given most emotion is processed below the level of consciousness, how do marketing commentators know whether the marketing communication elicits an emotion? Their judgment-based classification is more accurately described as classifying the creative agencies’ intentions and not the actual achieved emotional elicitation of the communication. In other words, based on their expert assessment, they are guessing.

For the past 10 years, Forethought has been applying an implicit scale to measure the discrete emotions elicited by thousands of campaigns, and we can say with complete certainty, just because the creative agency sets out to raise emotion, it does not follow that the marketing communication elicited an emotion. Equally, just because a marketing commentator judged a spot as emotional, does not mean that the communication elicited an emotion or, if it did elicit an emotion, that the emotion elicited attached to the brand.

The Forethought implicit scale – Prophecy Feelings® has been published in top tier academic journals[i] and its innovation is subject to patent protection[ii]. The average (mode) time for a respondent completing the movement of the metaphor-based, animated avatar scale is less than one second. Importantly, the scale has been applied in thousands of instances by hundreds of clients as a foundation to their marketing communications and share gaining strategy.

Perhaps advertising award jurors and marketing commentators can effectively judge the creative agency’s intention, however, purporting to be able to judge how consumers non-consciously process marketing communication is fanciful.

Take the example (October 2020) where the ARF awarded a Gold Ogilvy in the financial services category to Bendigo Bank. The campaign resulted in significant above system growth. The communications applied the Forethought Triple Play whereby the spot communicated a quality attribute, a price attribute and sought to elicit a discrete emotion amongst non-Bendigo Bank customers. In doing so, the spot simultaneously addressed brand building and direct response objectives.

Marketing savant and unquestionably one of the world’s leading lights in marketing, Mark Ritson PhD, agrees with Binet and Field who argue that ‘when you try and do both within the same execution these “double duty” ads usually underperform competitors that opt for a simultaneous or sequential approach.’ Ritson goes onto describe the emotional message elicited by the Bendigo Bank spot as ‘stunted and underwhelming.’[iii] As is the case in the ‘The Long and the Short of it’, Mark Ritson’s observation is based on judgement and what he believes is the “message sent.”

In the following exhibit we see a statistically significant lift (indicated by the rectangular box) post being exposed to the Bendigo Bank home loan spot. The emotional driver is measured implicitly using the Prophecy Feelings scale and is certainly not ‘stunted and underwhelming.’ The rational drivers (price and quality) are measured on a 0-10 scale. For confidentiality, the target discrete emotion and the rational reasons to believe are omitted from the scales here. The Gold Ogilvy award winning spot significantly raised all three elements of the Triple Play. The Prophecy Drive decision support dashboard accurately predicted the relative lift in market share and the internal rate of return for the production and media investment.

Comms Triple Play 2048x1220

Objectively and implicitly measured using the Prophecy Feelings scale, the spot statistically significantly raised the target emotion for the Bendigo Bank brand. It also achieves a similar feat for the other two elements of the Communications Triple Play (the Price and Quality drivers relating to home loans). The consequence is a strong lift in market share. Could a spot that just focused on top of the funnel emotion have raised the emotion to a higher point? Unlikely and in all probability, no. After all, it is a bank, and banking institutions typically suffer from a category dominant negativity of emotions. Our experience in banking is that often, the ad might elicit an emotion, but the emotion does not staple to the bank brand. The point is the measurement of change in discrete emotions is not a matter of judgement.

Ken Roberts, Chairman Forethought

[i] For example, ‘Incorporating Emotions into Evaluation and Choice Models: Application to Kmart Australia.’ Marketing Science 34(6):815-824, (2015) Ken Roberts, John H. Roberts, Peter J. Danaher, Rohan Raghavan

[ii] Feelings is patented in multiple jurisdictions. For example, United States Patent 8,939,903, Measurement of emotional response to sensory stimuli, Inventors: Roberts; Ken, Wong; Elaine PhD January 27, 2015