Emotional Design and Consumer Behavior

As emotions are part of everyone’s experience, emotional design entails relating to people effectively with your product design or its interface design. The role of emotions is to help signal and reveal the unconscious processes underlying behaviors.

Therefore, if you are launching a new product or an advertising campaign, evaluating emotional engagement before its launch can help predict the success or failure of the campaign. In other words, testing elements such as visual creative elements, images, videos, and music can help identify non conscious responses from your customers, which is in turn helpful to identify branding emotional triggers. It is even more powerful and pertinent in digital contexts, where the interaction with your product or ad is enhanced or restrained by technology.

If you are a brand or customer experience manager, you may know that applying neuroscience approaches to understanding online and offline consumer behaviors and decision-making can help you generate insights by observing their emotional and cognitive reactions.

Researchers at the Tech3lab at HEC Montreal for instance, evaluate the impact of the brand social presence of an international hotel group, comparing eye-tracking paths on the different versions of their Facebook page.

One version offers a smiling employee, whereas the other lays out the logo plain straight. At the cognitive level, gaze length and fixation percentage are measured and compared, emotional valence (i.e., positive or negative) is also recorded, to complement cognitive measures, as shown on the screen capture below.


Facereader capture screen

Evaluating these elements foster interesting questions. An interesting question in that case can be:

  • Is brand recall stronger for longer gazes on the brand logoor when more fixations are observed on the whole screen, as shown on the following heatmap?
Screen areas most looked at

Screen areas most looked at

Eye-tracking observations can also be combined with emotional face reading for that matter, so that measure triangulation enriches the depth of understanding, and lead to further specific questions such as:

  • Is brand recall stronger when the emotional response is positive? Or negative?

Research examples like the one presented in this post, show how an emotional design approach can be useful to better understand consumer behavior, especially their online behavior.

Furthermore, measuring real-time unconscious response in a commercial online context such as the one illustrated above, can also help your business target specific social and cultural groups more effectively.

For anyone concerned with user experience, there is no doubt left that applying neuroscience techniques to user research can foster strategic insights for your business in various ways, especially when combined with traditional market research tools.