ActFuture reaches the Grail by measuring consumer emotions.

ActFuture reaches the Grail by measuring the emotions of consumers face-to-face, over distance and internationally ❣️


A priori, there is an obvious interest for marketing and market research professionals to understand and analyze consumer emotions. And yet, this is not reflected so often in research projects, especially on the side of quantitivists. Why ? Is it the result of theoretical considerations? Or a practical difficulty in obtaining operational insights through this prism? Isabelle Fabry(fondeur of ActFuture) gives us his vision of this paradox, and introduces us to the principles of a new approach.

MRNews: Marketing researchers have long been interested in consumer emotions. But, in practice, this manifests itself very little in projects … Why?

Isabelle Fabry (ActFuture) : This issue of analyzing emotions is not new indeed. And that makes sense, because that is how we can detect the primary impulse of behavior, the motivation of consumers. This is obvious for the qualitativists in particular. But I don’t believe this concern is so widely shared among marketing decision makers. These still focus very largely on rational components. Let’s say it, emotions are difficult to understand. And above all, it’s scary, it’s the unknown! And there is a more or less conscious form of embarrassment in being interested in the emotions of consumers when, in our cultures anyway, we try to hide our own!

Isn’t there also and above all a “practical” brake on the exploration of emotions? Is it possible to do it simply and draw crystal-clear insights for action?

I think the theoretical brake plays a lot. The figure of homo-economicus – whose decisions are inherently rational – is still very present in the world of marketing. And habits have taken root. You have to go fast, even faster, always faster! Preferably with known, standardized, standardized processes, with extreme economy of means. In any case, this is the dominant reflex, with some brands managing to abstract themselves from it in order to work in a different, more in-depth manner. But I agree, neuroscience and psychometric measurements have not always been so easy to implement. However, things have changed a lot in recent years. This is what allowed us to develop a new approach to these topics.

What are the main biases of your method?

One of the key principles of our protocol, which we have defined with the support of a technological partner, is the complementarity of measurements and observations. When we test for example a communication or a packaging, we use physiological sensors. One to assess the level of sweating, the other for the heart rate. These two metrics allow us to identify potential emotional peaks when consumers are exposed to a series of stimuli. We also analyze the facial expressions of individuals. This helps us in particular to qualify the emotions we feel. Are they positive or negative? And what do they translate? Do we have signs of interest, apprehension, or on the contrary, boredom? And eye-tracking measurement is also integrated into the device, in cases where it is useful. We therefore use a quadruple measurement, with heart rate, sweating, facial coding and eye-tracking. Finally, I would like to point out that these measures do not replace a classic questioning, with open or closed questions, but that they are added to it.


The approach is implemented in cells of around sixty people, which thus contributes to the robustness of the measurements and analyzes. With very light tools, and very little intrusive for consumers, many of whom now use smartwatches or biometric bracelets.

What does combining different observations or metrics do?

This makes it possible on the one hand to make the analysis more reliable and to consolidate it. If only one indicator moves, there is uncertainty as to the significance of the phenomenon. On the other hand, if at the same time there is a peak in heart rate and sweating measurements and a change in the individual’s facial expression, there is no longer any doubt.


In addition, there is an extremely important complementarity effect. A spike in the psychometric data helps identify strong emotional activity. That’s great, but you still have to understand what happened. This is where facial-coding comes in, on the one hand, which allows you to know whether the emotion is positive or negative, and to qualify it according to the 7 main categories used mainly. And on the other hand, eye-tracking, which will tell him what stimulus caused this emotional spike. With the accumulation of these observations, to which we can of course add the accounts that consumers tell of their experience, we obtain an extraordinarily precise light!

We thus know precisely which stimulus aroused a strong and positive emotion …

Absoutely. Whether it is an advertisement, a packaging, a visit to a website or a physical store, we identify the levers that emotionally mobilize individuals. This is in theory extremely difficult, especially when dealing with complex consumer experiences, with many stimuli. It’s still the Holy Grail for Market Research professionals! Having experimented with a lot of leads, in particular on qualitative protocols, I find it magical to obtain such relevant and precise insights for action.


Especially since this method makes it possible to overcome barriers of gender, language, culture or social background. These methods of emotional measurement are eminently human, and remove the need for verbalization and the rational filter that goes with it. You can’t lie with your instinctive reactions and emotions. You can’t hide or filter anything. It is a huge advantage to know deeply the motivations of consumers, without any cheating. This is the dream for marketing.

You have already developed first projects with this approach. Who is it for first?

We have indeed used it for a major player in online games. With rather counter-intuitive results for decision-makers, since the analysis showed an insufficient capacity of the product to activate positive emotions. And therefore pointed out the need to rethink it drastically.


This study approach goes a little against the tide of a dominant wave. The one I mentioned earlier, with the imperative of having to do everything quickly with limited budgets. We are therefore targeting proactive profiles, brands that want to give themselves the means to deeply understand consumer behavior in their markets. And who would rather build a fundamental, lasting intelligence rather than stick to superficial probing.

One last question: the health crisis generates a lot of constraints. Are they not limiting for implementing this type of approach?

No, this is not the case. The first option is to use rooms adapted to these constraints, with a lot of space, partitions, hydroalcoholic gel, all the panoply familiar to face-to-face study professionals.(cf. The latest interview of Isabelle Fabry). The second is that of distance. In which case we send the material to participating consumers, employees working with us to give them instructions and confirm that everything is going well. The health crisis does not make our life easier, that is obvious. But it should not prevent either market researchers or brands from progressing in the deep and fundamental understanding of their markets, to develop responses fully in line with what the consumer desires!

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