Technology and marketing have historically always crossed over; ever since advancements within printing made the mass production of flyers and posters possible, to modern day social media’s role in shaping inbound marketing. Now, facial recognition technology is the next big thing looking to transform the way we market.
The idea of a robot being able to decipher your emotions from studying your face, even to the point where it can (with a significant deal of accuracy) determine whether you’re faking a smile or not, sounds like science fiction. But facial recognition technology has developed to the point where it is also emotion-reading technology, and is so effective that leading institutes and companies investing millions of dollars into it. Apple recently bought the facial recognition software Emotient, and Facebook just acquired the technology FacioMetrics.
The technology is programmed to recognize different facial expression and categories them as emotions such as joy, anger, disgust or sadness. You might think you could simply disguise your true feelings by adopting a poker face which fools the technology, but this is harder than you might think for a psychologically and biologically fascinating reason; micro-expressions. A relatively new finding; micro-expressions are known as the tiny, fleeting movement in muscles that one hardly notices but nonetheless can not control when being confronted with an emotion-inducing scenario.
In other words, whilst you might be able to fool other people into thinking you aren’t shocked in response to some surprising news, the emotion-reading technology would be able to detect minor movements in your face, even those that last less than a second, which reveal your true feelings. Thanks to the psychologists who study these micro-expressions and are discovering which emotions they correspond with, the technology has been programmed to understand the meaning behind minor and discreet facial reflexes.
Of course, this has huge implications to a number of industries, including therapy, law enforcement, politics and recruitment. But how does if affect marketing? Think about all the times you have been asked to fill in a survey, or prompted to ‘like’ and ‘share’ online material that you enjoy. Think about all the times you have been shown an autoplay commercial that is totally irrelevant to your interests, or been hassled by a salesperson who clearly isn’t winning you over. Inbound marketing is all about directing the right kind of content and prompts toward the right kind of user base – people who would actually benefit from, or simply enjoy, the product or service being advertised. Emotion reading technology can help marketers determine what kind of marketing works, and with which audience.
Whilst inbound marketing has traditionally relied solely on the tracking of consumer behaviour online in the form of search histories, Facebook likes, retweets and cookies, facial recognition could now soon be equally valuable in determining the right kind of advertisement, and advertising style, for individual people. Customer service and sales pitches will be transformed when they become conducted by artificial intelligence that can more accurately adjust its offers and promotions based on reading your emotions.
Perhaps marketers are overestimating the usefulness and implications of facial recognition algorithm in its current form, but there’s a lot of money going into rapidly improving the technology. It’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing this kind of software put to use in an increasing number of ways, particularly within marketing, for many industries over the next couple of decades.