Calculating the attribution value of emotion

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Dana Todd
Dana Todd

If I made you cry, you'd probably remember me more vividly than if I made you chuckle. By the same token, a handshake-and-business-card exchange does not carry the same emotional connection as an intimate business dinner. All of these are “emotional transactions” and yet one can easily see the different weighted values of each against a yardstick of human connection. We know these differences intrinsically and use them as we mentally calculate our feelings toward a person or a company.

So why then do we lump all digital engagements into a single value point on a scale? I've been watching with great interest the rise in demand for attribution solutions over the past few years, as brands attempt to track what media channels and messages their participants are being exposed to along the way to becoming a paying customer or brand advocate. I think it's a mighty endeavor, but ultimately we may be missing some parts if we only evaluate media transactions and not emotional transactions.

One of the legacy issues spawned by the separation of media and creative 20 years ago is that each camp has a limited set of levers they can pull in order to make a campaign work. With media, they can move money and they can move media channels, as well as the general type of creatives used. What they can't easily influence is the actual messaging and creative. Therefore, it's not measured and not valued in the attribution machines they build. If a campaign doesn't work, they're more likely to make a media change than a creative change.

I would argue that while we build the future of digital media mix modeling via attribution, we should include variables for weighting levels of connection and emotional influence. We're starting to understand this concept a bit more already, as companies calculate the value of a Facebook “Like” and such, but we're not applying a methodology across the board to enable brands to define emotional connectivity. McKinsey gave us permission to throw out the old “funnel” in 2009 when they published a call for a more sophisticated means of understanding the Consumer Decision Journey. Many companies (my own included) are building on this framework of understanding touchpoints in a relationship that doesn't end in a purchase.

How would this look in practice? It's actually easier than it sounds. You simply apply a weight for the emotional or impact value of an Experience that you've created for your participants. If TV can be weighted more heavily in the mix because of the emotional value of a :60 spot, then digital media buyers can certainly create a set of values that allow for impact tracking on such Experiences as “frequency of our mobile app usage” and “interacted with rich media educational elements more than 1 minute.” A simple static banner impression can be the baseline at a value of 1 or 0. Watching a video insertion all the way through might count higher. Simply set the weighting based on an understanding of what a “100% advocate” looks like to you and your brand. If you want to get really crazy, ask the creative development team to start submitting a suggested emotional impact weighting  when they send over the creatives for insertion. They can even weight multiple variables into a single experience based on multiple activities in an interactive engagement.

Understanding the impact of HOW a participant is engaging with you is essential to understanding where you stand in influencing core brand metrics such as intent, advocacy and preference. Once we can connect these metrics into a marketing automation system and adserver, we can begin to understand how the data is truly human.

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