Facebook: The Feel-Less Social Network?

Every year we ask how the British public feel about a range of brands in our Brands of British Origin survey. Some of the brands are British, but we throw in a lot of worldwide brands that British people use, too – like Coke, Pepsi, Apple or Amazon.

We collect emotional response using our FaceTrace methodology (which we’ve used to collect more than 500 million emotional responses worldwide, giving us the world’s biggest emotional database). How people feel about a brand is partly determined by category as well as the brand’s own qualities – no banks ever perform very well! But looking at the changes in a brand’s performance, its standing against its competitors, and the reasons given for the emotional response, can provide valuable insights.

One of the brands we ask about is Facebook – a brand with an enviable level of regular usage, a continuous presence in British life, and a compelling mission to keep you in constant connection with your friends. Surely people feel good about Facebook?

fb boredom

Well… not really. Continue reading

FEELMORE AD SPOTLIGHT #2: Guinness – “Empty Chair”

In the FeelMore Ad Spotlight we post about an ad we’ve tested that made people feel more. It’s all leading up to January’s release of the Global FeelMore50 – the definitive list of the year’s most emotional ads.

A man walks into a bar… or rather, he doesn’t. Guinness’ “Empty Chair” spot sets up a one-minute mystery: why does a bartender put out a perfectly-poured pint of stout every night next to an empty seat? Who is it for?

“Empty Chair” is directed by film director Noam Murro, who also made last year’s “Basketball” – where a group of buddies take to wheelchairs so they can play b-ball with their wheelchair-bound friend. That was one of last year’s most emotional ads, and when we tested “Empty Chair” we found that Guinness had continued their winning tradition: a second five-star emotional success. So what makes it so good?

“Empty Chair” is, as you’d expect, a brilliantly constructed story, with not a second wasted. We get two iterations to set up the concept, one twist – when a hapless traveller reaches for the chair and realises it’s not for him – and then the resolution. It’s a soldier, and the rest of the bar silently raises their pints to acknowledge the man.

The ad was released on the Fourth of July this year, so a patriotic theme fits the occasion. And “Empty Chair” is one of a number of emotional ads themed around returning soldiers we’ve seen in recent years. The military are one of the few US institutions to retain public trust over the last few decades – the latest Gallup polling has them as the most trusted institution, with 74% of Americans expressing confidence in them (to put this in perspective, the presidency gets 29% on the same scale!) But this means using soldiers in an ad carries its own risk – for brands to be seen as exploiting the troops is a big no-no.

“Empty Chair” avoids this, and earns its emotional payoff, by keeping things low-key and intimate. It doesn’t elaborate on the backstory – the relationship between the soldier and the bartender – and it simply emphasises the soldier’s stoicism and humanity, and quietly aligns the product with it. Ultimately, the ad says, he’s a man doing a job who deserves a pint at the end of it – it’s just his job is harder. It’s an ad that captures the changed perceptions of 21st century soldiering: where clear victories are elusive and aims sometimes hard to comprehend, the military retain public trust and sympathy by virtue of how difficult and dangerous their task seems.

Two other decisions help the ad earn its emotional five-star rating. “Empty Chair” resolves its story to a happy ending, but much of the ad sets up negative emotions – it’s a clearly sombre piece. When the man who turns out to be a soldier first appears, a shadowy figure tramping towards the pub, the music cues us to feel suspense and even fear – emotions that the ad can then resolve to happiness. And the decision to leave off a voiceover is an excellent one – this is a story that works best without words, and voiceovers can often dampen emotion by cueing it up too obviously. It’s a worthy successor to “Basketball”, and a second five-star ad in a row for Guinness’ New York team.

Ads in the FeelMore Ad Spotlight are tested using ComMotion ®, our award-winning proprietary ad testing tool: the only major ad testing product to use emotion as the foundation of its model. To learn more about emotional advertising and our methodology, contact BrainJuicer.

FEELMORE AD SPOTLIGHT #1: Thai Life – “Unsung Hero”

In the FeelMore Ad Spotlight we post about an ad we’ve tested that made people feel more. It’s all leading up to January’s release of the Global FeelMore50 – the definitive list of the year’s most emotional ads.

This inaugural spotlight falls on the Thai Life Insurance company’s “Unsung Hero”, released earlier this year. It’s the latest in a series of unashamedly emotional ads from Thai Life that dates back over a decade – well before any recent global trend for “sadvertising”. The ad’s director, “Tor” Sornsrivichai, has been described as “the most awarded ad director in the world”, and is perhaps the global king of emotional advertising.

“Unsung Hero” shows why “Tor” got those awards. It follows an ordinary guy who performs random acts of kindness to no apparent reward. The emotional journey of the ad mixes sadness and happiness – the man’s kind acts contrasted with the poverty or loneliness of some of those he helps. What does he get for it, the ad asks? Nothing. But the commercial puts the lie to its own claim, with a series of payoffs showing exactly what a difference he makes.

In an increasingly globalised world, ads with a universal appeal can make an international impact, wherever they’re from. But that same globalisation gives “Unsung Hero” its power: a globalised world is one where the individual feels less powerful and in control than ever. “Unsung Hero”- like a three-minute It’s A Wonderful Life – reassures us that the individual can still matter to other people.

It’s an important idea for a life insurance company – that’s a business where mattering to other people is the selling point – but very importantly Thai Life know better than to underline that in the ad. There’s no message here, and minimal branding – it just tells a story and makes you feel a lot. The result? When we tested Thai Life it got a very high (five-star) score – and it’s a strong possibility as the inaugural winner of the FeelMore Global list.

Ads in the FeelMore Ad Spotlight are tested using ComMotion, our award-winning proprietary ad testing tool: the only major ad testing product to use emotion as the foundation of its model. To learn more about emotional advertising and our methodology, contact BrainJuicer.

These Aren’t The Insights You’re Looking For

Last week on the blog we published an obituary for the Traditional Concept, which struck a nerve and became our most-read post for months. Research concepts, we argued, are simply too reasonable – they are appeals to deliberative System 2 thinking in a world where decisions are actually made by our fast, emotionally-guided System 1.

So concepts ought to try and reach System 1 first: they should be far more visual, ought to have more emotional charge and ought to be easier to process (i.e. use fewer words). This isn’t because we think those concepts will necessarily do better in tests – though in our validations many do – but because System 1 concepts replicate real behavioural context better, and are more differentiated. It’s easier with System 1 concepts to tell apart the winners from the losers.

The next question is – what should such concepts include? In upcoming posts we’ll talk about that. But this post is about something they shouldn’t include. Concepts that appeal to System 1 should not lead off with an insight statement.

Perhaps this seems like odd advice. After all, a good insight ought to be a universal human truth – something that feels intuitively right. If we’re looking for emotional impact, isn’t the insight the most emotional part of a concept?


“Luuuuke…. I am your insiiiiight…”

The reason for dropping insights boils down to three words: show, don’t tell. It’s the most basic advice to scriptwriters and it applies to concept writing too. If you have a human truth behind your concept, it should be something people can feel in the visuals and the description. It doesn’t have to be something they can articulate. In fact, sometimes it shouldn’t be.

For example, let’s think about Star Wars. Continue reading

The REAL Problem With Polls

With the Scottish referendum over, the polling post-mortem begins. We’re hearing the usual complaints: they got it wrong, they overestimated one side, and prediction markets were better.

Since we have a very successful research product based on the fact that predictive markets work better than asking intentions, you’d expect us to join in this pile-on.

But a lot of the criticism of polls is based on a misunderstanding about what they actually are. Continue reading

Rip It Up And Start Again?

Tomorrow, Scotland goes to the polls to vote for or against independence. Opinion polls are close – close enough, in fact, that they make pollsters nervous. The slight advantage to the “No” (anti-independence) campaign they show is tight enough that they could be left embarrassed either way.

Scotland’s finest.

If you believe – as most of us now do – that people are poor predictors of their own decisions, voting intention is obviously a great test case. One of our favourite studies, on US elections, showed that whatever the outcome, people were exceptionally poor judges of whether they would vote at all: come the day, half the declared “non-voters” actually turned out. (And a fair number of voters stayed home). Continue reading

Obituary: The Traditional Concept, c.1960 – 2014

The traditional Concept, which passed away earlier this year after a brief illness, will be fondly remembered by the many researchers who spent time with it. It was a reassuring presence in the research industry, its three part structure – Insight-Benefit-Reason To Believe – resonating as a solid, common sense way of developing and testing new products.


Unfailing enthusiasm for lost causes was one of the deceased’s virtues.

The birthplace of the traditional Concept is disputed, but by the 1960s and 1970s it was a prominent fixture on the research scene, though at that point it consisted only of Benefits and RTBs. Even so its enthusiasm for innovation gave it a dynamic air as it introduced products like 1973’s Superfry, “the cooking oil that sets like jelly”. “It sets!” announced the traditional Concept, “It does something no other oil can do.” Continue reading