Advertising Week Europe 2017: Emotionally Intelligent Brands

May 2, 2017

Meabh Quoirin, Foresight Factory’s CEO and Co-Owner took to the stage during Advertising Week Europe to present the results of an original study into consumer’s non-conscious emotional response to brands that we partnered with Sensum to produce. The research set out to understand which functional and emotional drivers were most closely associated with five UK car brands (Nissan, Ford, Peugeot, Škoda and Volkswagen) and which of these two different types of attributes drove greater brand differentiation and affinity.

On stage together with Meabh for the forty minute discussion to a full room were Gawain Morrison, CEO & Co-Founder of Sensum; Nicolas Coat from Nissan, Aaron McGrath from Bing and Andrew O’Sullivan from Casall.

The key areas of debate… had the methodology we pioneered together with Sensum allowed us to better understand consumers’ true feelings about these well known car brands? Were these feelings more powerful brand differentiators than tangible product features? Would consumers associate the brands with the emotions that brand marketers had set out to elicit through their story-telling? How could trends help brands identify which emotions to tap into and how to position themselves for greater brand love?



Beyond the obvious age-old desire of brands to tug at our heart strings, analysis of Foresight Factory data has shown that consumers expect brands to provide products or services that reflect their personality. Essentially, they are looking to buy aspects of their identity, so we believe it’s essential for all industries to understand their customers and potential customers like never before. Around half or more of global consumers are interested in even more personalised recommendations.  This desire for a closer connection makes it imperative for brands to understand the emotional territory they inhabit and operationlise against this across all parts of the business.


Why Now?

Understanding and, importantly, quantifying emotional intelligence at scale is starting to be a viable option for brands. Using techniques like non-conscious implicit response testing to gauge reaction to interactions from brand marketing to new engagement points enabled by VR and machine learning, make maximising a brand’s emotional intelligence possible.

Gawain Morrison described the methodology used in this study as a categorisation test. The subject makes rapid associations between words and, in this case, a set of car brands which are then measured by reaction time. An example used to illustrate this is users’ hesitation to put ‘cheap’ together with ‘Ferrari’. The milliseconds of delay indicate a mismatch registered in the subject’s mind. Such exercises can build a map of a brand that serves as a jumping off point. Other methods include sentiment analysis and biometric usage that can take place online or in the field alongside contextual data. Importantly, these data points can be tracked over time – for example, before a campaign, during and after to monitor its impact.

Why should emotional intelligence matter to brands?

We measured a 14% uplift in brand advocacy based on emotional associations rather than functional attributes for the five autos brands we studied. This isn’t to say practical features don’t matter, but as Andrew O’Sullivan pointed out, people already expect functional attributes like safety.

Spoiler alert…

It’s a factor that’s making Skoda particularly successful.  The results of our study show the words ‘exciting’ and ‘appealing’ are most associated with this car company. Their high rank in our study correlates with an 8% increase in registrations in the last year, demonstrating a possible commercial link to consumers’ strong emotional affiliation.

Watch the video replay of our Emotionally Intelligent Brands discussion at Advertising Week Europe 2017

However, a successful emotionally intelligent advertisement or even a campaign doesn’t put a tick in that box indefinitely. Aaron McGrath commented that search engines like Bing don’t receive brand specific searches when users are looking for emotional content like songs or advertisements. What we can derive from this observation is that the follow up stage is very much a missed opportunity. If consumers are holding on to the emotions evoked but failing to attach them to the name of a brand, there’s a disconnect. It highlights the importance of understanding your brand’s emotional impact and being able to deliver those strengths consistently, in every aspect of the business, right down to the figures of the advertising spend.

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Written by Laura Dennehy

I am the Head of Content Solutions at Foresight Factory and am responsible for innovating how we use trends to answer client questions and improving the ways we understand consumers.