Quantifying emotion – The Spark Emotional Wheel

The ability to measure the emotions that shoppers and consumers are feeling, and being able to react accordingly is more vital to businesses than ever before.

Thankfully at Spark, we have over 20 years of experience in helping our partners to understand emotion, in order to better meet the needs of their customers.

During this time,  we have developed our own unique model for quantifying emotions – our Spark Emotional Wheel.

This bespoke tool allows us to plot the exact emotion that people are feeling towards something, whether that be a brand, a store, or even the current state of the entire world around them.

We are then able to measure how that emotion changes over time, and how it can be influenced by external forces, like something as simple as a marketing message, right up to the major cultural changes we are all experiencing at the moment.

So, how does it work?

There is no doubt that being able to accurately measure human emotion is a complicated business. However, at Spark Emotions, we are lucky enough to work with a brilliant team of Consumer Psychologists (click here to meet the team), whose mission it is to take the complex and make it simple and actionable for our business partners.

We work on the principle that there are 7 basic emotions:  Happiness, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, Contempt, Surprise, and Anger.

We are then able to identify more than 140 specific emotions that sit within this framework.

Each emotion we experience contains different levels of 3 key measures:  Pleasure, Arousal (stimulation), and Control.

It is the relationship between these levels of Pleasure, Arousal and Control we experience when engaging with something, (such as people, products, or situations)  that determines the exact emotion that we feel.

The more in control we are, the less fearful we are. The more pleasure we experience, the more gleeful and out of control we become etc.

To simplify the complex nature of emotion, and show it in a meaningful way, we worked alongside Academia to create our ‘wheel’ of emotion, that contains all 140+ specific emotions within the structure of the 7 basic emotions.

By measuring the levels of Pleasure, Arousal, and Control that a person is feeling when exposed to something, we are able to plot the exact emotion that the person is experiencing on the wheel.

So what?

Once we understand the emotions that our consumers feel, we can then look to either tune into that emotion – adapting our approach to accommodate it; or we can work to shift their emotional position on the wheel.

We can use this knowledge we have of the emotion our consumers feel to optimise the ways in which we communicate with them, from the specific marketing messages we use in the store environment, right through to the atmosphere we can create with things like music and other stimuli.

For example, shoppers in the healthcare aisle may feel ‘fearful’ as they shop for a particular product to treat their symptoms. By reassuring them that they are making the right purchase decision, perhaps through strong product efficacy messaging, we can increase the level of control that they feel.

Their emotion would hence shift towards the proud and confident area of the wheel, falling within the overarching ‘Happiness’ emotion, where shoppers are feeling totally in control of their purchase decisions.

When looking at this in practice, we partnered with a clothing brand that wants its products to be seen as cool and edgy, yet its consumers were initially feeling ‘cheerful’ about their brand messaging. This is a positive emotion, but not the optimum emotion they would be aiming for to achieve their desired brand stance.   

We, therefore, worked with our client to try and raise shoppers’ levels of arousal, whilst reducing their feelings of control, with the aim of shifting the emotion that they felt when exposed to the brand towards the exciting emotion within the broader ‘Anger’ emotional group. 

The above highlights one of the key points about the Spark Emotional Wheel – that there is no right or wrong place to be on the wheel. It is about the ability to quantify the exact emotion that consumers are feeling, understand what it means,  and act upon it accordingly.

There is no doubt that the businesses that truly understand, and align with the emotions of their consumers, will be the ones that continue to grow as we step forward into the future.

Here at Spark Emotions we are passionate about using our expertise to implement this process, in order to both help businesses grow, and to create the most positive and engaging experience possible for shoppers and consumers.

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Written by Andy Bromley, Director of Operations at Spark Emotions
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Andy via email andy.bromley@sparkemotions.com or connect with him on LinkedIn

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