Best Practices

Deepen Your Understanding of Consumers with Emotional Mining

 2021/10/woman-smartphone-music-smile-245.jpg Happy young woman listening to music on her mp3 player
Happy young woman listening to music on her mp3 player

Understanding the Underlying Drivers of Consumer Behavior

Recent research by behavioral economists, psychologists, and neuroscientists has demonstrated the impact of emotions on driving behavior. Daniel Kahneman’s popular pieces on System 1 and System 2 thinking show that while System 2 thinking is more rational and reason-based, the emotion-based System 1 actually makes the vast majority of our decisions. These thoughts are subconscious and extremely difficult for people to articulate.

As a result, market researchers have explored a variety of approaches to peel back the layers of the subconscious and gain deeper insights into the consumer mindset. These approaches are often referred to as “emotional mining” and are focused on understanding the underlying drivers of behavior.

Since capturing these deeper emotional drivers tends to be difficult, it is critical that moderators first build rapport with participants. This creates an open environment to explore participants’ actions and feelings. By using thoughtful introductions and opening questions to set up this atmosphere, moderators can access respondents’ worlds and better understand their thoughts and actions. Good rapport ensures that the research experience is fun and informative for everyone involved.

Several strategies are used to help participants share the emotions underlying their decisions. Two of the most effective are laddering and projective techniques.

Laddering is an approach that reaches for the deeper emotional aspects behind brand/product/service choice and is based on the “means-end” concept. In this idea, brands, products, and services are connected to different benefit levels and are used as a means for reaching a desired end result. Laddering starts with the features that are most apparent to participants and explores their direct benefits. From there, the questions move to explore more abstract emotional benefits (such as “more confidence” or “feeling happier”) and ultimately personal values and motivators (such as “acceptance” or “security”).

Projective techniques encourage participants to “project” their thoughts and feelings onto stimuli. The idea is that these projections reveal aspects of participants’ personalities and needs while adding nuanced insight to the topic at hand. Common projective techniques include:

  • Analogies: Participants describe a brand/product/service in terms of an unrelated object or category (such as car make/model, or a celebrity). This technique can help describe general brand/product/service perceptions.
  • Personification: A brand/product/service is described as if it was transformed into a person. Personification shows how individuals view a brand, product, or service as a whole.
  • Party/Family of Brands: This takes personification one step further. Participants detail how different products/brands/services in a category would interact at a party or the roles they would play in a household. This exercise draws attention to product/brand/service offering gaps or disconnects between reality and perception.
  • Drawings: Participants explain a product, service, typical user, or relationship by drawing their idea. Drawing can allow for more visceral and creative reactions that can be difficult to share vocally.
  • Picture Decks: A variety of pictures are shared with participants who pick the one(s) that best fit the feelings, thoughts, or ideas they have about a topic. Picture Decks encourage participants to make clear connections with their underlying emotional motivators.
  • Collage: Collages collect words, symbols, and pictures together to illustrate participants’ feelings. They explore common images and encourage deep thought and reflection.
  • Birth Announcement/Eulogy: Participants are asked to write a brief piece about a topic in a familiar format. The Birth Announcement can describe the place a new product/brand/service may take in the world while the Eulogy examines a product/brand/service’s role in participants’ lives.

When used appropriately, these approaches open the door to discussion and give researchers access to consumers thoughts and perspectives. Emotional responses to brands, products, and services emerge with these techniques and are elaborated upon in the conversations that follow. The result is a set of initial insights and recommendations that are often further quantified in follow-up initiatives that focus on the findings gained via these discussions.

Contact us if you’d like to know how emotional mining approaches could add value to your efforts.

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