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The Notion of Emotion: Measuring Non-Conscious Response to Content

"People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons." - Zig Ziglar

Understanding consumers and how they feel about television content has been the focus of The Disney-ABC Television Group’s efforts in measuring the non-conscious reactions to their programs and integrating these insights with traditional marketing research methods.

Elizabeth Sloan is Senior Vice President, Consumer Insights at Disney-ABC Television Group at The Walt Disney Company. She’s was also a presenter at The Market Research Event (TMRE) on October 16-18 at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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As a preview to her presentation, “The Notion of Emotion: Measuring Non-Conscious Response to Content,” Elizabeth shares her insights on understanding the complex role emotions play in consumer behavior

Peggy L. Bieniek, ABC: What is the science behind the role that emotion plays in consumer behavior?

Elizabeth Sloan: Neuroscientists, psychologists and sociologists have long-studied the physical impact that emotions have on our bodies. When we experience emotions – even within the fictional context of a television show – our body produces chemicals that keep us engaged and activates parts of the brain that make those stories more memorable. From other research conducted internally at The Walt Disney Company, we know that higher levels of emotional engagement make you more likely to stay tuned during commercial breaks, which is tremendously important for our ad supported networks.

PB: How can marketers and market researchers benefit from understanding this science?

ES: While our work has primarily been focused on understanding the emotional impact of long-form content, marketers can certainly benefit from understanding the level of emotional engagement generated by their content, especially as an added layer to other key performance indicators. Observed emotional responses, in addition to ad recall or purchase intent, may help them hone in on the best strategy or content execution. Market researchers across industries can benefit by seeing how the combination of non-conscious reactions and self-reported data can give us a more complete picture of potential behavior.

PB: How does Disney-ABC TV use this science to support their content creation efforts?

ES: Our team works closely with the creative executives who develop new series each year and shepherd those shows through the production process. Our observed emotional research is becoming an integral part of our pilot testing process, and we’re working to make it a staple across all of our primary research.

PB: What should people have gained from attending your conference presentation?
ES:  I think attendees may be surprised by some of the innovative techniques and technological advancements our “traditional” media company is utilizing to make business decisions and optimize content. Our journey from idea to innovation has been a long and winding road filled with interesting obstacles and opportunities, so they will at the very least enjoy an entertaining (and emotionally impactful) story!

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