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Emotional CRM

CRM as we know it is a glass half full. It assumes that consumers only have a rational relationship with brands. CRM software tends to segment and contact customers based on their purchase behavior. The reality is that feeling comes first. Emotions tend to lead to actions while reason leads to conclusion. So, why not fill the other half of the glass with emotion? Can we humanize CRM to have a more emotional relationship with customers?

Social network platforms and web 2.0 technology have opened the door to this possibility. Consumers are broadcasting their feeling every day through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We are living in a naked society where the lines between online and offline expression are blurring. Brands can assess consumers’ emotional states based on their online social behavior and anticipate the link to purchase behavior.

To see how this works, let start with the basics. According to Dan Hill's Emotionomics, there are 7 core emotions that can be grouped in three categories at a high level: positive (happiness), neutral (surprise) and negative (fear, anger, sadness, disgust and contempt). Based on consumers’ posts online, brands can assess consumers’ emotion and link that emotion to behavior. Building on Hill's framework, let’s look at few examples to see how this works in practice.

Positive: A consumer who is happy with a service tends to have a higher risk tolerance at a lower reward. She is likely to make a quick decision. Brands can use this information to cross-sell other solutions.

Neutral: A consumer in a surprised state of mind doesn’t know what to expect between reward or punishment. She is likely to be cautious in her purchase decisions. Brands might want to focus on education rather than selling to gain their trust.

Negative: A consumer in fear tends to have a low risk and reward tolerance. Fear is considered the most important emotion. Fears have been played on prominently in the political sphere, including George W. Bush’s “War on terrorism” or Kennedy’s “Cuban Missile crisis”. Brands can use fear to offer safety (e.g., warranty services).

In summary, social network platforms and new technologies have opened the door for brands to humanize their relationship with consumers. A more human relationship is not only good for business but also for consumers. Brands should look for innovative ways to transform social data into emotional insights that can be put into action.


  1. I always thought that marketing and customer relationship management should incorporate more human emotion into them, more psychology. We can use these insights into consumers' emotions to sympathize, congratulate, reinforce, or use other actions to get more involved with them. It may have to be a subtle response though, because after all, it is a brand and not their psychologist

  2. Alberto, you are right on target with your comments. This is a brilliant layer we should be including in the way we craft our communications. As you point out, the trick will be finding ways to transform that social data into insight that we can put into action. Right now, too much of what we do, especially for very large clients, is based on general information. We know some consumers are unhappy with our client's products, but we don't necessarily know why? Others are very happy and we don't necessarily know why in that case either. People are letting the world know what they think about the products they use, we just have to find a way to harvest that information - and use it to guide creative.


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