We all read faces all day long. What if we could do it well enough to apply the results to our research?

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell introduced many of us to the concept of facial coding (if you're curious, he went into greater detail in The Naked Face). Facial coding promises to bridge the divide between stated responses and actual responses to ads and products - providing the results neuro firms uncover, but without the distracting (and bias-introducing) sensors and gadgets.

Facial coding enables us to scientifically yet non-invasively capture, quantify and analyze the emotions shown by consumers, executives, politicians, professional athletes, witnesses and others, addressing subtle points of possible resistance. And this can be applied to a variety of formats, including focus groups, individual interviews, mobile, experiential audits and online surveys.

Here are two examples of facial coding from one of Dan Hill's books, Emotionomics:

  1. A pharmaceutical company under fire for product safety evaluated two variations of an ad. One version was defensive and another more upbeat. Stated verbal responses were similar for the ads, but facial coding analysis showed a much more negative response to the defensive ad, particularly among a group of subjects supportive of the brand. The dramatic difference in the facial coding response convinced the firm to shelve the defensive ad and run only the upbeat version.
  2. Survey results showed twice as many saw more of an upside than a downside to adding a new appliance feature, and only 5% were concerned about the feature posing potential difficulties later. In contrast, 79% of subjects had a negative emotional reaction to the feature according to facial coding analysis.

Excited? Full of questions? So are we. That's why we invited facial coding expert and Sensory Logic CEO Dan Hill to teach us how to apply facial coding as a research tool at the 2015 Insights & Strategies Conference.

Don't forget to bone up in advance of Dan's keynote at ISC by reviewing MRA's 2014 study of the marketing research uses and applications (current and potential) of facial recognition technology, including facial coding.