By: Rahul Meena & Anuj Kapoor
Have you ever noticed yourself endlessly consuming content? More so, if the content is sad or funny rather than happy or neutral? This happens due to a phenomenon in psychology called emotional inertia. Does that mean if we start thinking negative and consequently be in a negative state of mind, we are doomed? Not necessarily.
The reason being the complex human mind where the interplay of factors result in a particular emotional state. There is a force opposing emotional inertia that is playing out. This phenomenon is known as emotion regulation, an inherent tendency in humans to regulate their emotions by moving from an extreme emotional state to a relatively less one.
Here is a decision-making framework — RRIPE — that advertisers and content creators can employ to create engaging content and advertisements.
The first component is reactance. Reactance is the feeling of someone restricting your freedom. This feeling creeps in when you encounter an advertising narrative that is too pushy or too preachy, an artifact of emotionally loud content. Top YouTube creators maintain a sense of suspense with their content and don’t make content too loud for any set of emotions.
The second component is recommendation. Recommender systems sometimes create echo chambers where the content with ‘appealing’ emotions keeps on circulating on the platform. As users interact with such content, they are served similar content leading to emotional contagion. This has been documented in a Facebook study where users were transferred to a sad emotional state by deliberately exposing them to sad content, without being conscious of this forced transfer.
Incongruence in the emotional content is the third component. One of the authors of this piece designed and implemented a large-scale field experiment in collaboration with the video/ad serving platform VDO.AI to study the effect of matching emotions for video ads and the content on which they are placed. Our main finding is that when ads are emotionally mismatched with content videos, there is greater consumer engagement termed as ‘incongruence effect’ than when the ads are congruent. We found evidence that ad-video pairs with incongruent emotions are more effective in shifting users’ attention when they have a tendency to see extreme content.
The fourth is placement. The incongruence effect is higher for users who consume sadder videos and especially when a happy ad is placed after the sad video. Therefore, the placement of the emotional content with reference to it before or after is important.
The last component is explainability. You must have noticed the rationale that Amazon and Spotify give you while suggesting products and tracks respectively, that is, users like you see this. Such recommendations evoke trust.
Finally, digital video, online media, content ad serving platforms allow for targeted advertising and recommendations through a variety of targeting variables. With regulations on privacy becoming more ubiquitous, the role of contextual variables in targeting, recommendations and content creation is likely to increase. We think that potential to use this framework is enormous.
Meena is a second-year MBA student & Kapoor is a faculty in marketing, IIM Ahmedabad