Eight Days Of Emotion: The Complete Series

Here are links to all our Eight Days Of Emotion posts, looking at the seven primary emotions identified by psychologist Paul Ekman – plus Neutrality, the absence of emotion.

Anger: “Some people will always be furious, but research is one way of getting consumer anger in perspective.”

Contempt: “For brands, it’s perhaps the most disastrous of all emotions.”

Disgust: “Disgust seems to be an extreme reaction to specific circumstances – a spasm of moral feeling when a brand has done something very wrong.”

Fear: “At the heart of marketing is removing fear of the unknown”

Happiness: “The single most important question you can ask is: does it make people feel happy?”

Sadness : “The most powerful storytelling emotion.”

Surprise: “Surprise can colour an entire experience – it is the spice of emotion”

Neutrality  “The problem with neutrality is that it’s almost impossible to use it creatively.”

If you want to know more about the primary emotions, we very much recommend Paul Ekman’s Emotions Revealed. And if you want to know more about how we at BrainJuicer use emotions, have a look at one of our articles on the topic.

Eight Days Of Emotion No.8: Neutrality

The last in our series looking at the eight primary emotions and how marketers use and misuse them. Hope you enjoyed it!

Neutrality isn’t one of the primary emotions identified by Paul Ekman. In fact, strictly speaking, neutrality isn’t an emotion at all. Rather it’s the absence of emotion, a feelings flatline that occurs when something fails to move you in any direction.

And it’s extremely common. In some ways this emotional off-switch is our default setting, as despite the best efforts of marketers and brands, getting a response is hard. Why wouldn’t it be? We see so many brands, products and adverts every day it’s no wonder our response is an enormous, collective “Meh”. Neutral responses are real, which is why it’s important to measure them. Continue reading

Eight Days Of Emotion No.7: Surprise

The seventh in our series of posts looking at the primary emotions.

According to psychologist and emotional expert Paul Ekman, the defining quality of surprise is its brevity. Seen on the human face, surprise is a fleeting sensation, a feeling that quickly resolves into one of the other primary emotions, like happiness, anger or fear. But for brands and communications, surprise can have lasting and powerful effects, colouring an entire experience. Surprise is the spice of emotion.

The question is, is surprise a good thing? At BrainJuicer we see it as a broadly positive emotion, and display it as such on our results charts, but it should be approached with caution.

Telegraphed – but effective! – surprise from Bjork.

For a start, we have to ask – do people actually enjoy being surprised? As humans we tend to assume we like surprises and variety more than we actually do. Asked to predict our choices, we build surprises in, but left to our ordinary, day-to-day devices we turn out to be creatures of habit. And there are studies suggesting that spoiling twist endings in advance lets people enjoy films more. Continue reading

Eight Days Of Emotion No.6: Sadness

Our Eight Days Of Emotion series returns after a short break for conference duties!

Sadness – the response to loss and the need for comfort – can be one of the longest-lasting and most devastating emotions. But few if any of us will go through life without some experience of extreme grief. In fact, until the 18th century sadness was seen in the West at least as the great universal emotion – the default state of mankind, suffering through life in a world that was a “vale of tears”.

Consumer psychology prefers to emphasise happiness these days – but it’s no surprise that sadness is still a deep, powerful force that skilled marketers and creatives can use. Broadly speaking there are two ways brands can use sadness: as a way to provoke empathy and as something to be invoked then resolved.

All the so-called negative emotions are constructive and necessary parts of being human, and so all of them can be sought out for pleasure or empathy. Sadness in particular, Paul Ekman writes, is an emotion that demands some level of empathic response: most of us respond instinctively to somebody who is crying, which is why videos like Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” – with its iconic single tear – worked so powerfully. Continue reading

Eight Days Of Emotion No.5: Happiness

Happiness is the most important emotion we measure. It plays a role in every positive marketing or research outcome and is absolutely central to most. Whether you’re looking at the effectiveness of an advert, the progress of a new product or the value of a new idea, the single most important question you can ask is: does it make people feel happy?

Nominated by one BrainJuicer staffer as the happiest song in the world!

Put this starkly, you might think it’s too good to be true. Can one positive emotion really act as a proxy for so many outcomes? But there are excellent scientific reasons for the importance of happiness. Continue reading

Eight Days Of Emotion No.4: Fear

The fourth in our series of posts exploring the eight primary emotions we measure.

Fear, according to psychologist Paul Ekman, is the most-researched emotion among academics. But in the world of people and brands, fear hardly registers. Of all the primary emotions BrainJuicer measures, it’s the one that crops up least, whether we’re measuring new concepts, communications, or looking at reactions to brands. It’s a particularly bold campaign that really goes for fear – like this one for a herbal tea brand.

Drowning clowns aside, marketing may make you angry, or disgusted, or contemptuous, but it hardly ever makes you afraid. So much so that during one experiment, when we wanted to induce fear in participants, we had to resort to a horror movie clip, not an ad at all.

Why is this? Continue reading

Eight Days Of Emotion No.2: Contempt

The second of our posts focusing on the primary emotions we all share, and how researchers and marketers use them.

Contempt is the least studied of all the primary emotions – in fact not all emotional researchers recognise it as something separate from disgust or anger. But Paul Ekman makes a convincing case that it is separate – contempt is expressed towards people (or constructs like brands) but not objects or actions, and it can predict things other emotions cannot. Ekman cites a study of marriages where wives who believed their husbands felt contempt towards them suffered quite different negative effects from those experiencing disgust or anger.

As with any “negative” emotion, contempt is constructive and useful – it can act as a warning system for more powerful emotions, or as a kind of insulation against them. And as Ekman points out, because it’s rooted in a sense of superiority, it needn’t be unpleasant to feel. As with Anger, contempt can be something we like to feel vicariously. Here’s the great R&B group TLC, singing “No Scrubs”, their enormous worldwide hit which drips with contempt for men who wrongly imagine they’re up to dating the band members!

But even if contempt is constructive to feel, it’s never enjoyable to suffer. For brands, in fact, it’s perhaps the most disastrous of all emotions. Continue reading