Thinking / Connecting through the heart.

Connecting through the heart.

Connecting through the Heart: The Importance of Measuring Emotions in Creative Testing – Case Study

Social sciences highlight the fundamental impact of emotions on consumer decisions and behaviors1, underscoring the importance of emotions in B2C advertising. Yet, creative testing methodologies still nearly exclusively measure rational consumer response (e.g., brand recall, brand linkage, message understanding, purchase consideration and intent) and fail to incorporate well thought-out measures of emotional response.

The following illustrates how Marcus Thomas measured both emotional and rational responses in creative testing, resulting in successful business outcomes.

Challenge – The Ohio Lottery needed to assess the impact of its TV and radio advertising on consumers and understand reactions to varying elements of style (e.g., story, characters, music, tone) to guide the development of future advertising executions with a creative approach proven to be effective. Marcus Thomas developed a methodological framework focused on evaluating consumer reactions to Ohio Lottery advertising campaigns, with a special emphasis on understanding emotional response.

Approach – Eleven campaign executions were selected (both TV and radio spots) in close collaboration with the Lottery, representing a variety of genres and styles. Over 1,000 consumers representative of the adult population in Ohio were exposed to the ads. Post-exposure questions included exercises to assess respondents’ rational and emotional reactions. Previous research suggests that emotional response – simply the way people feel after seeing an advertisement – could be a better predictor of effectiveness than commonly used evaluative, information-processing measures2

In the survey, emotions were captured first, immediately after exposure. Respondents used photography of faces representing fundamental feelings (e.g., happiness, surprise, anger) to report how the ad made them feel. Moment-by-moment reactions were collected while ads played a second time. In this second phase, consumers reported changes in their mood while watching the spots, explaining the reasons for their feelings using open-ended prompts, providing insight into ad elements (characters, tone, colors, music, dialogue, etc.) that affected their feelings.

Collecting feelings immediately after exposure and using photography representing emotions were critical in ensuring the capture of pure nonrationalized/verbalized feelings. Moment-by-moment reactions were used to create emotional journey maps for each spot (in aggregate), which helped refine creative approaches. As part of the survey, respondents answered probes measuring rational response, including traditional questions of brand recall and linkage, likelihood to purchase, etc. Results for each ad were compared to industry benchmarks for added context.

Outcomes – Findings provided a deep understanding of how each ad engaged consumers on an emotional level, clearly identified elements that generated positive and negative emotions, and pointed to neutral moments when consumers lacked emotional engagement. Learnings were instrumental in establishing creative guidelines for the development of future Lottery executions. Insights were applied to creative executions (e.g., dialogue, music, sequence of events) to maximize consumer emotional engagement the following year. Lottery year-to-year sales were up 4%, exceeding projections by nearly 2% the following year3

“The traditional assumption that emotion has no place in business is being questioned – and overturned. Recent research shows that understanding emotion is key to analyzing how and why consumers behave and to setting a company up for success.”
– It’s Time to Embrace Customer Emotion, Anjali Lai, Forrester, June 2015.



1. “How Emotions Influence What We Buy,” Psychology Today, Feb. 2013.

2. “How Emotional Tugs Trump Rational Pushes,” Journal of Advertising Research, March 2012.

3. Ads airing the following year included some which were not developed based on this methodology.