Marketing research traditionally has been done using quantitative methods, such as group surveying or self-reporting. While these methods provide valuable data, they don’t tell the whole story.
Rebecca Rast, assistant professor in the marketing department at Missouri State University, is taking a different approach to this kind of research. She is using facial expression analysis to develop a deeper understanding into the complexity of human behavior in the marketing field.
Using iMotions, Rast studies behavioral and emotional reactions to advertising and marketing stimuli to determine perceptions of advertisements.
iMotions helps to quantify engagement and emotional responses by capturing physiological reactions in real time. This technology captures how humans think, feel, act and respond. The software can measure seven core emotions: joy, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, sadness and surprise.
Rast wants to use the software on an array of marketing stimuli to look at any emotional differences and discover a richer dynamic of marketing responses.
“I’m continuing to think of other applications I can use the software for to continue to look at marketing behavior,” Rast said. “There is room for a lot of growth. I want to get in there and lay some of the foundation.”
Looking beyond consumers
A Missouri State alumna, Rast is currently pursuing her PhD at Louisiana State University. She started her current research when her professors at LSU suggested using the software for her dissertation.
As she began the research, MSU’s College of Business hired Rast. The college purchased the software to support her research and provide students access to this cutting-edge technology.
Rast has students send in videos of their reactions and runs those videos through the software. In the near future, she hopes to set up a computer area in the marketing department, where students can gather and be involved in the study.
“If I can share it with my students so they understand the outcomes, then I can apply it right back into the classroom when it comes to topics such as consumer behavior,” Rast said.
Although companies use similar software to analyze consumer behavior, Rast believes the field will continue to grow on the academic side.