Ninety-three percent of communication is non-verbal. According to A. Barbour, author of Louder Than Words: Nonverbal Communication, 55 percent is facial cues, 38 percent is tone and only 7 percent are the words we use. Think about the last time you sent a digital message to someone only to have the message misread or misinterpreted? Emoticons have become the digital representation of emotion and we use them universally as a way to express what we feel digitally however many times emoticons can come across as unprofessional or, worse, condescending. Emotion is important because it is a critical driver of decision making and by understanding how someone feels, you can better serve the needs of your consumers in ways that a “Like” button on Facebook cannot do.
Most consumers view advertising as impersonal unless the ad is directly relevant to their needs, desires or emotional state. For example, brands can target me based on my interests and whether I fit their target demographic but I use Old Spice, I drink Dr. Pepper 10, which is targeted towards men, and I hate the color pink. I can turn everything you ever thought about me on its head because I am a complex person and I want brands and advertisers to acknowledge that I am a real human and not just another notch on their belt. Much of my complexity stems from how I am feeling. I may be feeling anxious, or nervous or sad or elated – in my line of work I probably experience all of these emotions within a single hour. Startups are definitely not for the faint of heart but imagine the power of an emotionally relevant ad delivered at the right time? Emotional relevance is the next opportunity for digital innovation.
Let the patent war begin. Microsoft filed a patent for an “emotional database” advertising service in early 2012. Microsoft intends to store the emotional signals such as a reaction to a particular ad and use that data to “enable emotional targeting and specifying that its advertisements should be displayed to users having a positive emotional state” according to the patent. In 2009, Sony filed for a similar patent. Samsung has also applied for an emotional recognition patent to feel out what a person is feeling through action units (AUs), which are designed to reference the contractions of facial muscles. But will all these technologies even work?
In 2006 I was sitting in a finance class in business school and I had the most puzzled look on my face. We were covering the capital asset pricing model, which is sure to put most people to sleep, but the professor stopped the entire class to ask me what was wrong. I did not have the heart to tell him that I was working on my to-do list in my head. Until we humans become more predictable and robotic, I really do not see how these technologies will work with great accuracy.
Affective computing suggests that because of the complexity of human emotion, computer systems should simply act as a medium through which to convey emotion.
But what if there is really a way to incorporate emotional relevance into advertising? What if there is a way for you, brand or advertiser, to know what I am feeling?
One company whose technology sounds very promising is Kanjoya. Kanjoya is the company behind The Experience Project, which is a story-sharing website where people can chime in and share their own experiences. With billions of data points and over 21 million stories shared, the company launched a product called Crane, which is an emotion-aware sentiment analysis service that analyzes 80 different emotions and helps rate those emotions with a probability and intensity score based on what a person writes. The patent-pending technology is currently used on an enterprise level, most recently partnering with Yammer, but I can see how this technology can eventually be used to improve emotionally relevant communications between a brand and a consumer. The company recently opened access to their engine via an API, so other developers can use the technology against their valuable data set.
If brands want to sell more digitally they need to start thinking of “social media” as “human media.” Some strategies of human media are tweeting back when a user tweets at you, which can win hearts and minds and requires little effort. In fact, I think its fun to converse with people and the strategy lends itself quite well to what drives much of social media marketing today – vanity. Another strategy is sending me a personal message from a real person as it makes me feel special but I would love it even more if you paired personal messages on social media, or “human media,” with samples, coupons, discounts or gift cards that I can use to test out your product. I would also respond to every single user, not just the ones that have a large following because you just never know what kind of offline conversations people are having and, if you only target people who seem to spend their entire life on Twitter and Facebook, you lose an opportunity to be the topic of conversation at a dinner table, or at work, or at a conference. A company I would model my social media strategy after is American Airlines, which uses Twitter as a customer support tool in addition to promotions and announcements. American Airlines social media strategy is what I call “human media.”
In the meantime, until meaningful technology is developed in a way that can capture as close to accurate emotional states without having to wear a sensor or pierce into my eyes via a camera, the most sincere advice I have for brands looking to sell more products from their digital media strategy is to simply be more human.
Jeanette Cajide helps manage the product development cycle at Dialexa, an end-to-end product development technology company focused on building innovative and disruptive technologies based in Dallas. Dialexa’s offerings range from strategy consulting to interaction design, visual design, software and hardware development, embedded devices, wireless, mobile, web and frameworks across all industries including aerospace and defense, automotive, health care, consumer goods, enterprise software, transportation, retail, financial services, technology, media and telecommunications. She is also cofounder of mobile app Blurtt, developed in partnership with Dialexa, that helps people create visual statements from their mobile phone. Jeanette has degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, Northwestern University and Harvard University. She is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post.
Follow Jeanette on Twitter: @jeanettec007