Emotional Data: The Future of Measuring Your Customers and Prospects

Understanding the motivations and emotions of your customers and prospects may be the most important thing to figure out at your organization — and equally the most challenging.

Things like CRM systems, analytics, digital funnels, surveys and other tools gather data to try and help us understand customers, but they all fail to address one very simple and critical thing … “WHY?” 

At their very best, these behavioral aggregators can help you be predictable with customers, and they can provide behavioral cues. But you can’t explain why someone does something based simply on the fact that they do it. So how can we better understand the drivers of behavior? 

Start measuring emotions.

Measuring Emotions

In the early 1990s, famed neuroscientist Antonio Damasio first created his somatic marker hypothesis, which proved that the emotive brain, or the limbic system, was responsible for decision making. This breakthrough has made Damasio one of the most cited researchers the past two decades.

Damasio’s research was the genesis of PROOF’s research method, an analysis technique specifically engineered to quantify emotions at scale to help organizations get real emotional insights to create stronger connections with their customers and understand why they buy, why they stay and why they leave.

PROOF has spent the last decade experimenting with different combinations of analysis techniques and benchmarking them against the latest decision science and neuroscience trying to find a simple and scalable way to quantify emotions so they can be easily used by organizations to improve their communications, sales and marketing.

How to Get Emotional Data

Traditionally, getting emotional information required the use of interviews, focus groups and other qualitative methodologies that are expensive, time consuming and, from a research and data perspective, inaccurate. PROOF created an Emotional Resonance Scale™ that uses a proprietary survey system that is both simple and scalable, so it is extremely fast and inexpensive to execute.

PROOF’s system associates an emotional score for every value proposition, product or service feature, sales pitch or any idea you use to sell at your organization. 

Imagine being able to step in front of potential customers, give them one value proposition and see on a scale of 0 to 100 how much it resonates with them. Then repeat that process over and over again using different value propositions each time, and at the end see which have the highest numbers — that is, which value propositions are most likely to convince them to buy and which value propositions are losing you money.

The Science Behind Emotional Data

Each emotional resonance score is calculated using a combination of quantitative techniques including Likert weighted average scoring, Max Frequency scoring, Top Box and qualitative techniques, specifically grounded theory.

But at the heart of what makes the PROOF Method so unique and effective is response timing. Timing is a critical variable in evaluating emotional resonance. In a study by Johns Hopkins University researchers, they concluded that the brain makes decisions in approximately 200 milliseconds. After an additional 200 milliseconds, it is very difficult to change that decision. This means to accurately capture a viscerally emotive response, you need to measure in milliseconds how quickly people are reading and reacting to value propositions. This science was the foundation for PROOF’s timing systems. 

Additionally, the emotive brain and the logic brain operate at different speeds. In his popular book Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman describes the differences between the emotive fast brain (system 1) and the logical slow brain (system 2). The millisecond timing mechanisms built into PROOF’s system allows tracking of when the viscerally emotive fast brain is answering questions and when the logical slow brain is answering questions. The system then benchmarks the speed of the answers based on the time it takes respondents to answer other fast-brain questions like what their names are or how old they are. Scores are then adjusted based on the cadence of the questions and the response speed relative to the time it takes to answer the control group question.

The result of these analyses is one emotional resonance score per value proposition, which is a number that represents the emotional resonance of the value proposition on a scale from 0 to 100. Each score exists on a scale of relativity, allowing for easy side-by-side analysis as well as individual segmentation. The result of an analysis executed with the PROOF Method is typically an unprecedented understanding of customer and prospect emotions, motivations and preferences. 

The PROOF Method has been used in nearly 400 independent studies across countless sectors and verticals. It has allowed leaders to segment customers and prospects with effective messaging, find new sales with existing customers, identify new target verticals, identify why donors give and much more. 

Behavioral tools that help organizations understand the who, what, when, where and how are, and will continue to be, valuable to understand your customers and prospects. However, without understanding WHY they do or don’t do things is the holy grail of sales, marketing and communications. While emotional data is still in its infancy, it is the beginning of a new world of understanding how to connect with the emotions and decision making of buyers.


Grant Gooding is an emotional-data thought leader; speaker; and marketing and neuroscience nerd. He is founder and CEO of PROOF Positioning, a market research firm that specializes in emotional data.


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