Can you analyse customer emotions? 


Suzy Bashford in Campaign has posted a thought provoking article about the next ‘new’ trend in marketing metrics which is all about Emotional Analytics.

Certainly an eye catching idea. Although the academic in me is screaming – this isn’t exactly new is it? Haven’t we been talking about sentiment tracking for some years now? 

The appeal of reading ’emotions’ as well as merely tracking ‘behaviours’ offers the possibility of a more rounded understanding of people. The appeal of tracking behaviours is you can ‘see’ behaviours. They are the safe ground of objective scientific management. The philosophical view of management that says the only dependable information is what you can sense and measure. 

Emotions are different. The compelling component of rhetoric, the things that get pulled out of us with vivid appeals, the things that shape our attitudes. Let’s make marketing great again! 

You can’t ‘see an emotion’ (you can see an effect of an emotion in the world – crying, laughing etc). They are invisible and powerful so no wonder organisations are fascinated by them. Understand emotions and you start reading people and their thoughts about brands, products, services AND let’s not forget customer facing staff. 

But hang on! Have you noticed something here? Yes it’s that thing that sits quietly in background called ‘the marketing discourse’. That thing which marketing professionals draw from and use to convey their professional identity and credentials. Professional Discourses are the dominant words that convey the key beliefs and ideas of a profession. They live in a paradigm. 

In this case we have the term ’emotional analytics’. Wow! sounds super sexy doesn’t it! Sort of ‘I have to have me some of that!’. The thing is can you analyse an emotion? And if you can – so what? You only end up describing some attributes that make up the ‘thing’. 

If emotions are subjective and qualitative surely we should emphasising the ‘interpretation‘ of emotions shouldn’t we?  Reading what the emotions mean? Hearing from the consumer the meaning they give to their emotional connections to brands, products, services and people. 

Analytics for me smacks of Technological Determinism. The conviction that technology can provide the answers for everything. Just keep refining the algorithm and eventually you won’t need a CMO anymore! The computer says ‘love’ 

So can you analyse emotions? What do you think? 


Christmas Sentiment

Christmas is a time full of signs and symbolism. The same goes for any profession and Marketing management is no exception.

Marketing buzzwords are a sign. A sign with many meanings. They can signify ‘I’m in the know’, they can signify ‘the deliberate exclusion of the unknowing’, they can signify ‘the fudging of plain English’.

I picked up this example in a business article from The Independent about Thornton’s the chocolate retailer. Referring to recent poor sales the company said one cause was “continued weakness in customer sentiment”. What on earth is the meaning of that! The sentiment refers to something so ‘that something’ must be poor not the actual sentiment.

Interestingly for me it also seems to imply that the ‘sentiment’ is something that is being done ‘to’ the business. Something outside of their control. Poor sentiment is portrayed in the same way as poor weather. Its come our way and we’ll be through it soon. This is a dangerous mind set that focuses attention on PR and wordsmithery rather than the real issues that must be facing the business.

Sentiment is marketing communications latest buzzword. It is next in line to become reified by marketing acolytes.

Sure sentiment matters and tools like Radian6 are helpful and powerful, and it also risks becoming a fudge. A gloss over what matters, an arcane marketing short hand that skates over commercial issues that need to be communicated plainly.

I can hear it now ‘we have a sentiment crisis’, ‘101 ways to make your brand sentimental’, ‘sentiment sentience – how knowing what your customers feel about your products matters.’

All of sudden marketing has a brand new issue, something marketers can get concerned with, and something that diverts thought and energy from the fundamental issues. So in the grand tradition of Semiology perhaps being clear on the distinction between the sign and what it represents is a vital marketing capability. In this way we can ensure that Marketing is not dismissed as a fudge-box.

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