Emotional Intelligence

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By Meabh Quoirin, CEO & Co-Owner, Foresight Factory (Formerly Future Foundation)

The year of EQ

I predict 2017 will be the year of EQ. The macro socio-cultural and political conditions are ripe, the science is ready, but perhaps most importantly the consumer is hungry for it. Never has the simple adage ‘facts tell, stories sell, carried so much weight (thank you, Mr President Elect). Perhaps the simple shift towards a greater proportion of time spent in front of screens has sufficiently boosted our conscious desire for more emotional, ‘offline style’ interactions, particularly across our social networking spaces. Or maybe it’s just the undeniable pressure on today’s marketer to deliver products and messages that replicate not just people’s true needs, but their very personal identity – even their personality. The signals for understanding, tracking & matching people’s moods are getting very interesting indeed. But this will be a tricky game to play.

Needless to say pigeon-holing people by personality is pretty well impossible, at this stage at least, and likely to be just an frustrating and limited as any other classic segmentation. And so the race for – what I like to call – personality proxies – is on. Who can best play the brand as personality game? Prepare for a range of  branding shifts, immersive tech  led product experiences, and some highly experimental marcomms coming your way, sometime very soon.....

The brand balance

It’s quite clear that for brands this represents something of a seismic realisation. It’s no longer a question of deciding on an aspirational emotive positioning (the sense of self-satisfaction that pervades male-focused car advertising, for example). Marketers need to balance credible consistency in their brand tone, with an ability to detect and respond to the emotional signals that different consumers send at different moments. A person with a high EQ doesn’t adopt the same conversational style with everyone they meet – they have an instinct for picking up on a person’s current feelings and deeper motivations and expressing their personality in a way that fits. Given that two thirds of global consumers  now  welcome brands who reflect their own personality, style, taste – across all categories from the mundane to the highly engaging – so marketing simply must tune in to these different kinds of emotional intelligence.

True signals

One of the most interesting and controversial elements of emotional science is of course getting behind the consumer curtain of social norms and closer to their true desires and opinions. It will be critical to get a reading on both conscious and non-conscious responses. Something as simple as the cascade of emojis, the semi-conscious emotional responses to messages posted across the Twitter sphere, can be a hugely valuable insight into the emotion your brand elicits, versus those of your competitors. A pretty binary signal, but one that we believe is being wrongly overlooked – not least because we’ve forecast a huge rise in the volume of emoji use over the next 2 years. We can also expect exciting immersive signals to illuminate our dark emotional secrets: cue more AR and VR in every direction. From emotionally intelligent avatars to discrete hearable devices – consumers will be altogether more generous in the intelligence they offer the platforms, products and services we engage.  Understanding where the lines are, in terms of how far brands can push the application of these new data streams will create a lively discourse.

Future signs

For a hint of what’s to come, the best place to look is arguably the car industry. Ironic, perhaps given their approach to advertising thus far, but it’s genuinely intriguing to see brands such as Hyundai using facial & eye tracking signals to understand consumers’ moods as they drive. Other players, particularly at the luxury end of the market, are decoding similar signals from consumers in the showroom.

One of the key milestones we’re monitoring at Foresight Factory is how the consumer will react in all of this. Do we really, really want to be told how we feel? Will we recognise ourselves in new emotional positioning? Will we enjoy the media that is calibrated to our moods? How much of this will we even be aware of, truthfully? We’ve been exploring not only the science, but the consumers’ view of what is welcome and acceptable. Suffice to say, brands have more permission to play here than perhaps they even realise. A subtle balance will be required though and the potential for disruption from new regulation – particularly in Europe – must be keeping even the boldest marketers awake at night. Learning where the lines are, in terms of how far brands can push the application of these new data streams, will be one of the industry hot topics of the latter part of this decade.

Join us this month, as we kick-off the debate at the Advertising Week Europe Roadshow. We hope to see you there.