Emotional Intelligence, the latest buzzword to fly through marketing’s living room, has all the promising language of a meaningful progress in the march towards moneymaking – and none of the ethical foresight, or foresmell, to realize the manipulative sh*tstorm it unleashes on the world.
The marketer-drones swarmed towards “emotional intelligence” during Advertising Week Europe at the beginning of April, and why not? Who wouldn’t want guaranteed conversions based on an unparalleled understanding of the hidden realms of customer intent? Who wouldn’t want to know how to use emotional channels to drive “user engagement,” sell more products, create desire for services, or to enhance a site’s “stickiness/addictiveness?”
Sensum’s CEO Gawain Morrison believes emotions drive every decision. He believes that brands are headed towards forging relationships with their consumers vs. simply selling a product. Sensum is an “emotions-based software company” that has founded it’s success with huge brands across the world, by measuring, reporting and driving ad campaigns all based on emotional intelligence.
Sensum believes that the core of a relationship between a brand and a customer is centered around emotion, so to understand the reasons behind purchase behavior, loyalty and even enjoyment with a brand, that business has to understand it’s consumers on an emotional level.
Imagine a world where immersive and responsive advertisements read your facial features and adapt to your apparent emotional state. Imagine a totally immersive horror movie attuned to your fears, drawing on an experimental emotional response database. Sensum has already been working on these concepts, and their work unlocks deep, impactful marketing insights and applications.
However, any marketing effort that’s based on triggering and gaining response on emotional levels, should be carefully monitored for any ethically questionable use outside of the marketplace. I wonder if Sensum is worried about this…
“The changing shape of the media landscape, from audience participation to the blurring of media lines and boundaries, offers up a wild range of opportunities to people and companies able to experiment in this space.” – SENSUMGiven the current state of media manipulation and mistrust, the proliferation of fake news, digital ad-fraud, the government-sanctioned sell-off of private user data by Internet Providers, and the hyper-targeted ability to covertly mine emotional data from social media to use in selective ad campaigns that can influence society and even swing election results – the above quote is a slap in the ethical testicles.
On a personal level – emotional intelligence is an important concept to cultivate. Building a comprehension of emotional signals & responses, and then using this to strengthen connections with another person seems psychologically-sound, empathetic, humane, real. However, we should be clear on one thing. When emotional manipulation is used on a personal level, against someone’s best interests or wishes, it can have extremely negative effects on a relationship and can damage trust irrevocably. Furthermore, emotional manipulation is not only deplorable, it is essentially against Article 22, 26, & 28 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
So when a business chooses to collect emotional intelligence from a chosen group (usually covertly), and then analyzes this for patterns, and engineers information and ad campaigns designed to subconsciously effect and slightly nudge someone’s cognitive ability to make decisions in one direction or the other – how is this not viewed as emotional manipulation? How does the normal marketer, escape the feelings of being a POSMarketer?
I’m not here to throw sweaters on all the strippers inside the nightclubs of the free-marketplace, I’m just here to ask questions –
Can we learn about our customers, but ethically pursue research that isn’t covert and is understood clearly by the participants? Should we pursue ad campaigns that seek to remove emotional vulnerabilities, rather than prey on them? And can the value we provide to our customers or target audience be so abundantly clear, that we pull them in, rather than push ads out?
We are living in an age in which the behavioral sciences have become inescapable. The findings of social psychology and behavioral economics are being employed to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part. Aspects of human societies that were formerly guided by habit and tradition, or spontaneity and whim, are now increasingly the intended or unintended consequences of decisions made on the basis of scientific theories of the human mind and human well-being.
The behavioral techniques that are being employed by governments and private corporations do not appeal to our reason; they do not seek to persuade us consciously with information and argument. Rather, these techniques change behavior by appealing to our nonrational motivations, our emotional triggers and unconscious biases. If psychologists could possess a systematic understanding of these nonrational motivations they would have the power to influence the smallest aspects of our lives and the largest aspects of our societies.
So what kind of marketer are you? An ethical marketer ready to take action on behalf of protecting our marketplace eco-systems – or are you a POS?