Tech Goes Emo

Tech Goes Emo

There’s a soul-crushing moment in The Iron Giant when [spoiler alert] the alien robot chooses to save humans from an atomic bomb. The 1968 story by British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes presents one of the archetypal intersections of technology and humanity. It was science fiction then but, in the near fifty years that have since passed, the delta between tech and humans has narrowed. Today we live in a world where technology is closing in on what may be our most complex asset: emotion. And while the long-term impact unleashes a provocative range of possibilities, the more immediate effects are starting to be seen in customer engagement.

Emotion isn’t a new frontier in business, of course; sentiment analysis and emotional branding have been in practice long before they were formalized. Focus groups date at least as far back as World War II and Mad Men fans will likely recall Draper’s tryst with consumer-research (and consultant Faye Miller…) And, of course, as the 20th century progressed, technology joined customer insight’s analog tool sets. But it’s only more recently that tech-powered emotional analytics have really stepped into the spotlight.

What’s driving tech’s emo pursuits?

There is a certain inevitability to it all; for years now, artificial intelligence has made its way into countless sci-fi narratives, laying out a trajectory of sorts for innovation. But a more practical driving factor is the business case—the seismic shift in consumer behavior (thanks largely to on-demand content and mobile devices) has challenged brands by turning neatly defined channels and dayparts into an always-on free for all. And while the ability to reach consumers anywhere/anytime sounds compelling on the surface, try accessing a highway without a designated on ramp. Without a construct for when to engage consumers, you need to be a lot smarter about making your move.

How is it done?

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