If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This philosophical thought experiment is meant to challenge our concept of observation and perception.1 Can something exist if it is not perceived consciously?
Related to perception, the last decade has shown growing interest in emotional effects from consumer products. Product developers are now tasked with proving that lotions, home fragrance sprays and shampoos are having a desired effect on consumers’ moods. Further, consumer testing has evolved beyond the capability of assessing just like/dislike and product specifications, to also evaluating consumer emotional states using validated measures.
One of the reasons for this success is driven by the well-recognized fact that measurement of liking alone may fail to predict consumption behavior and product performance in the market. Still, a real challenge in the assessment of consumer emotional responses has been the need for validated but meaningful measures. The cosmetics industry wants simple, validated, affordable ways to measure consumer emotion.
Emotions exert an incredibly powerful force on human behavior. Why exactly do humans have emotions and what causes these feelings? Researchers, philosophers and psychologists have proposed different theories to explain the how and why behind human emotions—complicating their assessment by the industry. Consumers also have increased interested in products with real emotional benefits. So how can developers be sure that the intended emotional benefits are recognized and perceived by consumers?
Neuro-behavioral approaches in market and consumer research are becoming increasingly important not only in designing consumer products, but also in understanding how consumers respond emotionally and physically to product experiences; from the product's use, to marketing communications. Our brains dictate what we like and how we behave. As we interact with the world around us, we take in information non-consciously through our senses, i.e., taste, smell, sight, sound and touch. These external stimuli trigger neural responses, forming impressions in the brain without conscious awareness. Those neural impressions become further analyzed and the conscious mind becomes aware of them, in turn giving them meaning and value. This influences our reactions, decisions and behaviors, including self-reported emotions (see Figure 1).
If the emotional experience is not recognized by the consumer, however, what does that mean for efficacy? The general problems in testing consumer emotions and proving emotional efficacy fall within three challenges: defining emotions, measuring emotions and meeting actionable results.
- Berkeley, G. (1982). A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. Indianapolis, Hackett Pub. Co.