Can mood merchants bend the ad market?

According to estimates, ads targeted at readers based on predicted moods rather than their previous behaviour have improved click-through rate by 40%

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Mar 2, 2020 8:43 AM
Mood Marketing

With online tracking of consumer activities being highly prevalent in this day and age, it comes as little surprise that consumer moods have recently popped up as the new way for advertisers to target consumers.

Mood marketing represents a new phase of data-driven ad optimisation that could change the way advertising works. Emotive messaging, flash sales and timed promotions have long been staples of the retail arsenal, with impulse-driven purchasing proving to be an effective tactic for the success of retail-marketing.

But where is this phenomenon of mood-marketing headed now? Will its unfamiliar, and possibly intrusive, means of gathering data put people off or will it rather work in a brand’s favour by helping it garner long-term ROI? And finally, how ethical is it for an advertiser to target a consumer’s mood?

In the mood for marketing?
Over the past few years, music streaming brand Spotify has been ramping up its data analytic capabilities in a bid to help marketers target consumers with adverts tailored to the mood they’re in. The brand deduces this from the sort of music the consumer has been listening to, coupled with where and when the person is, along with third-party data that might be available.

And they’re not alone. In 2016, eBay too launched a mood marketing tool that leverages anonymised behavioural data that has been split up into niche segments to target shoppers when browsing a site based on what they’re interested in at that specific moment, rather than what they are expected to be interested in. Once the mood of the shopper has been identified the most relevant ad is then served to them thus making it more relevant, increasing the chance of engagement and that all-important click.

According to Amandeep Singh, Business Director, VMLY&R India, mood marketing has been there for the last many years and is just going to grow with more advances and development of connected devices and rise in subscription-based services. “Spotify knows my mood better than my wife based on the songs I am listening to; Swiggy knows my favourite lunch on weekdays and weekends; the Facebook newsfeed knows any person more than they know themselves in few days of using their platform – so whether you like it or not mood marketing is going to stay and grow.

“It would be a dream come true for a marketer if one could see a single view of consumer journey along with the mood states mapped basis their platform usage and habits and importantly all in real-time with algorithms getting better every day in predicting moods,” Singh points out.

Another interesting instance of this was when biometric data was used at Wimbledon allowing Jaguar to team up with Mindshare to capture spectator’s emotions. The data was collected through cuffs and atmospheric sensors to track global sentiment on Facebook, then shared via social media. This data could be used to target the crowd with ads that align with the emotional state being fed through sensors.

For Surbhi Arora, Regional Head, Creative Strategy, WATConsult, mood marketing is really a denominator of how well a brand knows its product, and what the audience’s attitude is towards it. “I believe that the consumer mood or emotion I am going for will never be far away from the functional truth of my product. Let’s look at your favourite music streaming app that is equipped with mood-playlists. Now if you were listening to a party anthem on a Friday afternoon, it’s a perfect opportunity for brands like Uber, Dineout, Zomato, Durex and Zara to target you, and why not? It’s all about connected convenience that is guided by a basic but powerful consumer behaviour - their current mood.”

Furthermore, some companies (like Affectiva) are even discussing the possibility of optimising in-store advertising by using cameras to analyse facial expressions and body language, before presenting advertising that fits or responds to people’s behaviour.

According to Aakriti Sinha, National Head, Social Media, Isobar India, mood marketing is most effective if we have the right tools in place to map sentiments and can take relevant well-thought action at the right time. In case of some brands, the agency is going a step ahead and mapping emojis, the most universally accepted mode of expression, she said. However, she added: “Mood marketing is far from being a problem-solver and a solution provider. Most brands, barring few, steer away from and socio-economic mood. Hence mood marketing, if done right, can be a temporary fix and help in managing a brand’s image or perception.”

From demographic to psychographic marketing
The shift from demographic to psychographic targeting might seem interesting but as we know the latter doesn’t have a great public image. Cambridge Analytica, the company that was in the news for misuse of Facebook data and according to its own claims helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election, used psychographic segmentation.

In terms of ethics, Singh said: “The bigger questions, of course, arise from recent developments around the world - be it the case of Cambridge Analytics, Brexit and even the elections here. With whom does this power eventually lie? The power which comes from owning and controlling the technology or the platform and personal data which comes with it. Would it be the technology companies? The Martech ecosystem attached to it? Or the state?
It is ironical that these questions were raised and imagined better in classic fictions like ‘1984’ by George Orwell or ‘Leila’, the Netflix series. We all need to debate and find a solution to this bigger question about ethics because it is not just about marketing.”

If we were to go by the figures presented in recent media reports, ads targeted at readers based on their predicted moods rather than their previous behaviour improved the click-through rate by 40%.

Arora also believes mood marketing is like a double-edged weapon. “In a positive scenario, a brand makes a consumer feel many things, from being empowered, to feeling ecstatic to even feeling accomplished. So, for a brand to gauge a consumer’s emotional state and respond with a solution could possibly be the highest form of becoming human. However, in a negative scenario, the rules of the game change when a brand tries to capitalise on my ‘fear’ to make sales. I don’t think I am okay with that. With every public consumer epiphany that brands now need to deal with, the ad merchants definitely need to let go of fear-based marketing and stay on the lighter side,” she establishes.

Where it’s headed
While some brands have been quick to try new developments such as eye tracking in an attempt to overcome language biases or lack of clarity, the drawback here is that this method requires consent – how many people will actually want to be tracked via their webcam by an advertiser? And eventually, this runs the risk of becoming too invasive.
However, in terms of bending the market, Singh feels that it all depends on how a brand builds its overall marketing strategy based on an infinite number of data received directly in case of D2C or targeting options available on third-party platforms.

According to him, if you are using the data to leverage moods at a very manipulative and tactical level it might only bring short-term benefits or spikes in graphs. “But if you align everything around the brand purpose and the role your product or service is supposed to play in a consumer’s life – everything will fall into place for long-term mutual benefit,” Singh noted.

Furthermore, with the recent explosion of video advertising, marketers might tap into emotional targeting across this new channel. Sinha feels that India too is ready for mood marketing. “There couldn’t be a better time. But with target group behaviour, mood and sentiment changing every 200km in our country, it will work well for brands to start with smaller pockets and targeted catchment areas. A real mood-changer like the Snickers campaign can be a lot more effective than cosmetic mood marketing activities,” she suggested.

Emotional targeting has not yet reached its full potential, but might experience a resurgence as newer and better technology evolves to make it one of the most lucrative methods for converting browsers into buyers. In an era where a majority of brands sell through cause-vertising, it might be well worth looking at if the very same companies walk the talk by being ‘companies with a conscience’ or exploit psychographic targeting as just another method to increase market share.

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