Facial Expressions Don't Lie

Facial Expressions Don't Lie
Brian McHale
Facial Expressions Don't Lie

Show me a brand that hasn’t at least started to embrace the power of video, B2C or B2B, and I’ll show you a brand that is struggling to effectively reach its customer. Whether it’s through social media channels, on websites or as part of online and mobile ads, people are streaming videos at an all-time high. But just because people are watching, it doesn’t mean the videos are doing their job.

Research has shown that 80% of our decisions are based on emotions, not logic. A good marketing message appeals to both. However, given the 80/20 rule, you better do everything you can to get the emotional side of this equation correct.

At our agency, we have a research and analytics platform that allows us to do advanced video testing to track the emotions a viewer experiences as they watch a video. It actually monitors, measures and analyzes the viewer’s facial expressions. Based on 50+ years of facial recognition and expression research, our platform measures multiple points on a viewer’s face to tell what they are feeling as the video rolls. It also measures attentiveness and eye movement. Eyes are often referred to as a window to the soul. Well facial expressions, involuntary as they may be, serve as a window to your emotions.

We use this new technology in one of two ways; to review past videos and apply insights to future productions; or integrate it into our production process to optimize the video during post production. Either way, it uses cognitive science and artificial intelligence to create actionable insights.

This facial analytics tool helped us optimize recent video content for a retail client. For years, this brand had taken a traditional approach with a “black and white” retail message. The message was straightforward, informational, with a promotional offer at the end. As the brand grew, we shifted to a more experiential place showcasing emotional and lifestyle benefits. That meant our video content also had to change.

We used the platform to test our past videos and integrated it into the production process for the new look and feel of the brand. The original videos had very high attentiveness and positive emotion scores throughout the spot. So the bar was already pretty high. But we were able to glean some valuable insights.

For instance, opening with a wide establishing shot delayed positive viewer emotion. Tighter shots that focused on people in action generated positive emotion much faster. Heat mapping of eye movements revealed key items that viewers seemed to seek out in the video. And the length of screen time for the promotional offers had an impact on both emotions and attentiveness.

While past videos already had a positive emotional base, we were able to optimize our new videos to enhance the viewers’ emotional response, even when dramatically changing the brand foundational elements.

Now, I recognize that some may cringe at the thought of using AI and science to impact creative output. But we’ve made it an integral part of our video production process, because our mission is to “Win the day with data-driven ideas.”

We use data to develop the customer insights that fuel our creative ideas. Being a company with a mix of right and left brained individuals, it’s not about the data or tech, but rather what we do with it to create the most compelling marketing messages for brands. A recent blog post of mine touches on the importance of nuancing the data, not blindly following it. Gaining and applying insights on the type of emotional connection your brand makes with its video content can be a real game changer.