Dan Hill is an internationally recognized expert on emotions and the president of Sensory Logic, Inc., which has done market research work for over 50% of the world’s top 100 B2C companies.
To capture and quantify emotions, Dan pioneered the use of facial coding in business in 1998. He is a certified practitioner of the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), and the recipient of 7 U.S. patents related to the analysis of facial coding data. With the automation of facial coding, the tool has become a key component of what The Economist has described as the emerging “facial-industrial” complex.
In 2019, Dan published three new books: Famous Faces Decoded, Two Cheers for Democracy and First Blush.
Famous Faces Decoded: A Guidebook for Reading Others has applicability, for example, for managers in regards to hiring, employee engagement, team-building, diversity, and feedback sessions. Other uses include sales, customer service training, coaching, education, dating, and marriage counselling.
Two Cheers for Democracy: How Emotions Drive Leadership Style is especially applicable to executive development, including in relation to effective change management and creating an inclusive, productive workplace culture.
Finally, First Blush: People’s Intuitive Reactions to Famous Art is, in business terms, an opportunity to take a fresh look at what kind of advertising and marketing imagery will have the strongest stopping power and provide the best opportunity for prolonged engagement.
I reached out to Dan for a short interview on how businesses should leverage the power of emotions, how they should cater to the wants of their customers instead of their needs and why is essential for managers to be aware of their employees’ feelings.
Q: In one of your articles, you say There are two currencies in life: dollars and emotions. Today brands communicate mainly online. How can they use emotions to influence customers?
A: The single best way is visually, as we absorb that information more intuitively, quickly, and with less of a cognitive-rejection filter. Besides, if a visual is really worth 10,000 words, well, you’ll be lucky to get most people to read more than 20-30 words closely (quite honestly). So I better not go on too long with any of my answers here!
So… (to be brief), use a visual that emotionally tells a (brand) story or customer story, or sets up a problem/solution contrast. Something that will create an emotional response, leading to motivation and recall – both of which are emotive in nature. It doesn’t always matter which emotion(s) you elicit, so long as they fit your strategy. Most times, however, hope and happiness is where the journey must end emotionally speaking.
Q: Brands are not people. How emotional can brands get?
A: The great ones get very emotional. They’re not facts, they’re fiction because they function in the best sense of the word as a myth – a promise – whereas in drab reality, there’s every chance in the world that your company’s offer is either not differentiated from rivals or can be me-too’ed by them. A key adjective or word you own, a key visual or storyline.
A brand is about building up a few select associations that will fit the hearts and habits of your customers.
Q: Our customers have wants and needs. You recommend that brands cater to their customers’ wants as they are more powerful than their needs.
A: We’ll pay more for a want, a dream, being fulfilled. Needs are often obligations. I have to mow the lawn. Getting it done is a need but hardly a want. Promise me a hammock to lie in after I mow the lawn and now we’re talking something I might be willing to pay (extra) for if framed well.
Creating a need is hard and gets rationally fact-checked. A dream needs no justification. Who really puts a price tag on their dreams if they reflect a deeply personal longing?
Q: Let’s talk about employees: is it important for managers to know how their team members feel about the company or the project they’re working on?
A: Certainly, because motivation and emotion are words both rooted in Latin – movere, to move, to make something happen. So they have to feel something, and then they have to get along and have a sense of some urgency.
Emotions are hugely contagious. Good feelings multiple, but so do bad feelings. And yet a “negative” emotion like anger can be good if it means the team is out to prove that an idea of theirs labelled “stupid” or inferior to a competitor is something they will be resilient about and come through on in the end.
Q: What book are your reading now and why?
A: I run a podcast called Dan Hill’s EQ Spotlight on the New Books Network. It’s the world’s largest book review oriented platform in the world, with over 1.2 million downloads monthly.
For the podcast I host, I’m reading Nick Morgan’s book “Can You Hear Me?” about business life in the virtual, digital, online world. Then I am also reading “How to Be an Antiracist” because, well, of all that is going on in the States, including here in my hometown of Minneapolis-St. Paul, where George Floyd was killed.
Q: What makes you happy?
A: Connecting with people, being outdoors. A great movie, holding my wife’s hand, a bike ride, a tennis match, a nice book, an intriguing painting or photograph, dawn, a rainstorm. You can see the list goes on and on. Oh, and a new city or country or place to explore!
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