Special Edition: Emotions and Wellbeing

Getting to the truth: Technology is the future of deep consumer insights, says Spark Emotions

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Brands 'think they know who their consumer is' but the truth is that many don't, says Spark Emotions founder (Getty Images)
Brands 'think they know who their consumer is' but the truth is that many don't, says Spark Emotions founder (Getty Images)

Related tags Emotion Marketing Branding consumer behavior Technology

Understanding consumers has long been the goal of any brand, but decoding emotion is extremely complex and requires the power of technology, says the founder of insights startup Spark Emotions.

Founded just eight months ago by ex-Tesco marketing director Lee Harrison, Spark Emotions aimed to decipher what truly made consumers tick. Utilising its emotional mapping wheel and a team of consumer psychologists, data scientists and marketeers, Harrison said the agency’s model was the future of deeper brand knowledge.

“With Spark Emotions, it’s about the ability to get to the truth; not just who your consumer is or how they are behaving but specifically how they feel on an emotional level,”​ he told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

“…People think they know who their consumer is, and the truth is a lot of people don’t.”

Emotional mapping unravels how consumers really feel

Harrison said the agency’s emotional mapping wheel gave detailed measures on consumer emotion when shopping within a category or interacting with a product. And Spark Emotions used a range of technology tools and methods to gauge this, including video analysis, interviews designed by consumer psychologists and eye tracking technology, among other things.

He said the model shed light on primary consumer emotions but also second and even third emotions – going far deeper into how consumers felt.

Asked if data crunching and technology was the future of truly understanding consumers, he said: “I’m crystal clear on it. If you don’t, you get claimed behaviour – you don’t get the truth.”

For years, company executives had been making decisions based on claimed behaviour from consumer surveys and various other market research tools, rather than academia which was “bonkers”, ​Harrison said.

“If you want to be truly in tune, on a functional and emotional level, with your consumers, you have to understand how they truly feel about your store, your experience, your product. Without getting to the truth, you can waste a lot of money in an inefficient way.”

Spark Emotions’ emotional mapping wheel was currently used to observe and analyse in-store consumer behaviour but it could also be used “way up the funnel”, ​Harrison said – analysing what motivated consumers about a category, more broadly.

“I feel very passionate about the situation further up the funnel and we’re just building out our capacity now. It gives us the ability to understand who is shopping in a personal care category and how they feel about the environment,” ​he said.

Emotional branding – it’s about the way in which a business does everything

Considering emotions can influence so many aspects of a brand, from tester availability to in-store layouts, says Harrison (Getty Images)
Considering emotions can influence so many aspects of a brand, from tester availability to in-store layouts, says Harrison (Getty Images)

Once emotions were understood, Harrison said leveraging them within marketing and brand messaging was “absolutely critical”.

“I feel really strongly about emotional marketing but also emotional branding – it’s the way in which we do everything. It could be the way in which you advise customers or how they interact with the products,” ​he said.

Deep knowledge on consumer emotions enabled brands to improve their offering, he said, from fixture layouts that helped consumers find products faster to testers that enabled consumers to touch and feel products and even entirely new product launches.

Businesses that truly understood how to build brand equity, and the importance of emotions within this, would be the ones “around for the long haul”,​ he said.

But Harrison said this didn’t mean decades of learning and traditional marketing practices had to be dismissed. There were baselines on how particular categories were shopped based on habits, he said, that were important to understand and avoid changing.

“When it comes to any given category – because I’m a trader, ops guy, ex-Tesco – first of all, you have to really just embrace what that category does particularly well. However, there is then a need, a really big need, to tap into the emotional need of that consumer,”​ he said.

“…Emotion is more prevalent and more important than it’s ever been, but the truth of emotion, not what we think it is. If brands can get to that, they can evolve their strategy – it’s about evolution not revolution.”

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