How to Measure Emotions in Branding and Advertising Research

November 23, 2008
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Today I thought I’d continue my discussion (from last month) with one of our psychology experts, Holly Morrell.
TOM: Holly, a lot of our clients are interested in measuring psychological attributes or emotion within their ads etc. How can we measure emotions?
 
HOLLY: Emotions influence consumers’ decisions about which products or services to purchase, a fact that […]

Today I thought I’d continue my discussion (from last month) with one of our psychology experts, Holly Morrell.

TOM: Holly, a lot of our clients are interested in measuring psychological attributes or emotion within their ads etc. How can we measure emotions?

 Anderson Analytics - Holly Morrell

HOLLY: Emotions influence consumers’ decisions about which products or services to purchase, a fact that highlights the importance of understanding how consumers respond to your product on an emotional level. So, how do we measure their emotional responses? There are a variety of ways that range from the very simple to the more elaborate. You can simply present a consumer panel with your product or your advertisement and ask them to rate various emotions on a scale from 0 to 10. This type of measurement is quick and informative, and has been used successfully in psychological studies for decades. For example:

Please rate your level of on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (the most you have ever been).

You could get a bit more elaborate and use any of a wide variety of commonly used and validated questionnaires, such as the Profile of Mood States (POMS). The POMS contains sixty-five adjectives that describe a series of mood states. Respondents rate the degree to which they have experienced each mood state on a 5-point scale ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4 (extremely). The POMS has seven subscales, including Tension-Anxiety, Depression-Dejection, Anger-Hostility, Vigor-Activity, Fatigue-Inertia, and Confusion-Bewilderment (Boyle, 1987; McNair et al., 1971). This is a pretty long questionnaire, but there are shorter ones out there if you do not want to burden your panelists too much. The advantage of these types of questionnaires is that they give you more comprehensive information about your consumers’ emotional states than single-item measures.

A particularly useful way to tap into consumers’ emotional response to your product and marketing strategy is to hold a standard focus group, and then ask participants open-ended questions about their gut reactions. In this case, group members will write about their response to your product or advertisement in paragraph style. Then, their responses can be subjected to a more sophisticated and complex form of evaluation: text analysis. The great thing about text analysis is that you can identify, quantify, and describe participants’ use of emotion words, and then interpret these responses in the context of psychological theories of emotion. Of course, it takes a trained psychologist to do this, but the benefits of knowing how consumers are likely to be affected by your product or advertisement, and of then being able to tailor your marketing strategy accordingly, are invaluable.

These examples give a brief introduction to just a few of the many ways in which emotions can measured in the marketing arena. There are a multitude of additional options, which can be selected to meet one’s specific needs. For example, you may be working under serious time, financial, or space constraints; or you may only want to target one specific emotion. At the end of the day, you can say how strongly your panelists experience various emotional states of interest, in comparison to each other, which will ultimately help you to determine how large segments of the general public are likely to respond to your product or advertising strategy.

TOM: Thanks Holly, I agree, I think utilizing text analytics to measure emotion is much more interesting and better than asking a battery of psychographic questions.

Link to original postTom H. C. Anderson – Anderson Analytics