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The Social Element

Emotional data vs human emotions

Brands need data to understand human emotion - and humans to understand the emotional data that will help them maximise effectiveness

Littleton…“Data needs human interpretation to help brands extract actionable insight, and humans to act on it”
Littleton…“Data needs human interpretation to help brands extract actionable insight, and humans to act on it”

Without an emotional connection to consumers, a brand is nothing more than a label. The world’s greatest brands elicit raw emotional responses: desire, aspiration, love, joy, passion. Emotions create conversations – we talk about the things we care about. We share stories that make us laugh or cry. It is emotion that connects us to each other and the world around us and makes us social creatures. It is the most important element of what differentiates a brand from a product. It’s what makes us buy with our hearts, not our heads. It’s how movements are created.

Social media has evolved from being a place where brands could talk to their customers to being one where they can both connect with and understand them at an emotional level. Brands’ social-media marketing strategies focus on two main areas: proactive customer service or product marketing; and creating emotional connections with consumers.

That means social-media content also broadly falls into two categories. The first is functional content that fulfils the important purpose of answering common questions, helping a customer with an issue or providing information to a wide audience. The second is emotional content designed specifically to create an emotional connection to a brand.

Functional content relies heavily on data and automation to inform its strategy. Some of the most basic content functions can eventually be automated (answering common questions and acknowledging queries, for example). More complicated or urgent queries should be triaged and answered by humans who can apply intelligence to solve problems and serve customers. In this way, tools and technology support humans to enable them to do their jobs more effectively and spend more time resolving complex problems.

Emotional content requires emotional intelligence that can come only from humans. It takes human creativity to come up with the idea for a beautiful ad or produce great content that can inspire
us and change the way we behave. Humans, not robots, create emotional bonds. But brands still need data to tell them whether what they’re doing works.

Measuring the impact of emotional content is more complicated than counting the numbers (where social-media analytics have been focused, traditionally). A new breed of sophisticated emotional analytics tools allows brands to focus on quality, not quantity; on behavioural change over number of shares, likes, reach, followers or even sales (although they will help you increase them).

These tools measure emotions such as rage, joy, amazement or frustration, and understand how they affect success. They answer questions relevant to the brand’s high-level strategy. Has its content inspired action? Does it create desire or a deep emotional connection that lasts beyond a single sale? How has it changed consumer behaviour? And – importantly – how can insight be incorporated into the brand’s strategy to make it more effective?

Data needs human interpretation to help brands extract meaningful and actionable insight, and humans to act on it. Brands need a quick-thinking, quick-acting team that applies thought to data, to produce incredible ideas that disrupt and innovate. They need creative talent to write great copy and design compelling images and video. And people who will produce amazing content that changes behaviour and strengthens emotional connections with the brand. And great local teams who understand their markets and can make centralised content relevant locally. 

Why do people the world over connect with Coca-Cola? Because the brand resonates emotionally not just at a global brand level, but at a local level. Once you understand consumers’ emotions toward the brand, relevance comes naturally.

Passion is at the heart of a brand’s marketing strategy. To create that passion, you need brilliant people.
To measure that passion, you need emotional analytics.

Tamara Littleton is CEO at The Social Element (formerly known as emoderation) 

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