The face is an important source of information. Without saying a word, one can tell a lot about how someone feels by looking at their face. Since facial expressions are closely linked with emotion, many are involuntary and can give strong evidence into how someone feels, whether they are trying to convey those emotions, or not. Facial expressions are deeply rooted in human evolution and there are six basic emotions generally considered universal across different human cultures. Facial expressions are powerful enough to be used to detect basic feelings towards products, brands, or ads without a verbal explanation.
One method for reading emotions using facial expressions is the FACS (Facial Action Coding System). Trained psychologists, such as Paul Ekman, the father of FACS, can detect very nuanced emotion using this method. While marketers might love to use professional facial coders to figure out how consumers are feeling , there are not very many like Dr. Ekman in the world.
Fortunately for marketers, there are solutions for facial coding using software. The software may not be able to read emotions as nuanced as the best professionals, but it is faster, less expensive, easier, and is excellent at getting a second-by-second reading of a consumer’s basic emotions. These software solutions often only require a webcam and a web browser and can easily be built into current survey research methods without requiring any special labs or equipment. At LRW we have already instituted facial recognition software to explore critical brand and ad issues. To ensure that nuanced emotions can be captured, we developed specialized complimentary tasks to software-based facial coding that dimensionalize emotions at a more granular level (e.g. trust, shock, pity, anxiety, annoyance, jealousy, etc.). We’ll talk about this approach – one that relies on rapid responses – in an upcoming blog post.
Facial coding can help marketers gain valuable consumer insights. Combined with complimentary tasks, digital face coding can uncover these insights for marketers while preserving large, representative samples, reasonable costs, and the turnaround times often needed to meet internal commitments.