Studying emotion is a pretty tough subject. Most market researchers really want to understand how customers experience their brand emotionally. The problem is, on a basic level it's not entirely clear how to define emotion. Sure, you can look up emotion on dictionary.com and there's a definition. It will tell you that emotion is "an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness."
Huh? At least it talks about how emotion is experienced (how we apply meaning to emotion).
Google defines emotion as "a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one's circumstances, mood, or relationships with others."
This one is easier to understand, however this definition eliminates experience and clearly states that emotion is "a natural instinctive state." In essence, it stakes the claim that emotion is "nature" rather than "nurture."
The inability to clearly define emotion complicates things. Does everyone have emotion? Does everyone experience emotion in the same way? Is the meaning of emotion good or bad when someone states, "he's being emotional"? As with most things, I believe that the meaning and experience of emotion varies on the individual. So how do you sort it out and find meaning from emotion?
Here's how we do it at Discovery Research.
A number of years back, we started studying emotion as it pertains to market research. As you'd guess, our emotional modeling and measurements have evolved (and are still evolving). Discovery is very interested in social media research. One of the reasons is that it generates so much unstructured text that is filled with emotional expression. One of the things we do with our social media research is attempt to get past simple sentiment (positive, negative, neutral) to some sort of emotional understanding of the research question at hand.
Here's some output [pictured above] from some work that we did a few years ago on Energy Drinks.
Finally, it's important to reiterate that you must find a way to be actionable in your research on emotion. Frankly, without it we're doomed. Unfortunately, that's the most difficult part of emotion. In research, we know that consumers believe they make decisions based on a logical stepwise process. We also know that in 9 out of 10 situations, that belief couldn't be further from the truth. Consumers base their decisions on emotion not logic. It's about time that we, as an industry, understand emotion much more thoroughly.
Download the Energy Drinks Conversation Analysis whitepaper.
Originally published on Landmark as "Using Market Research to Define the Meaning in Emotion"