Study Uses Data to Track Consumer Emotions When They Buy

But Is Self-Reported Emotional Data Useful for Marketers?

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People imbibe energy drinks when they're stressed out.

At least that's according to the results of a preliminary study attempting to gauge the emotional state of consumers when they purchase or consume products.

The project and a related technology -- deemed "Honey" -- is a collaboration of Omnicom-owned agency Sparks & Honey and a tech startup Emozia, which provides what it calls Emotive Recognition Technology.

Ultimately, the information could be employed by marketers to communicate brand messages based on emotional states that would trigger purchase.

The system combines data that's automatically generated by mobile devices such as location and weather with self-reported data showing someone visited a store or guzzled a coffee drink.

"What makes you feel a certain way is what drives you to purchase products," suggested Terry Young, CEO and founder of Sparks & Honey.

For the preliminary study lasting 60 days, people opted-in to have their sleep patterns, self-reported energy-beverage consumption and other data tracked. To measure sleep patterns, the system uses GPS location data along with ambient light sensors in participants' phones which estimate whether they were at home with the lights off, thus most likely sleeping. The study found that average energy-drink consumption occurred at the beginning of an extended period of accelerated stress levels. It also found that on average participants quaffed the energy-boosting libations when it was around 20% more sunny than normal.

A more obvious finding: energy-drink consumption took place when people were on the verge of fatigue following a prolonged period of stable energy levels.

"You begin to see what drives consumption," said Mr. Young. "This can give you new triggers in order to customize some kind of promotion," he suggested.

In addition to establishing benchmarks for a future planned study, the research will help the partners determine whether there's a market for this type of data among advertisers. "Is there value in emotional data and if there is, how big is that opportunity?" asked Mr. Young.

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