Emotion Analysis versus Sentiment Analysis: Three Reasons why Emotion Analysis Wins

Milk and cookies. Pen and paper. Tequila and bad decisions. Sometimes, two concepts are so tightly interlinked that it’s easy to forget that they are in fact quite different. At Adoreboard, we often find that Emotion Analytics and Sentiment Analysis are one such pair. Sure, they both seek to understand nuances in customer data, and they each have a role to play in customer experience strategy. But let’s get one thing straight: They are not the same thing and there are three key reasons why this is the case, particularly when it comes to improving customer experience.

Defining Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment Analysis is a coarse-grained approach that tells you if something is positive, negative or neutral. This does not allow for an understanding of how you might actually act upon this information. The problem with data categorised as ‘neutral’ is that there is high potential to miss valuable insight. Sentiment analysis works a bit like poker in this sense – if the keyword used to categorise posts as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ doesn’t occur, the system will essentially ‘fold’ and classify the text as neutral. Additionally, more advanced techniques suffer from the problem of ‘overfitting’. You can learn from labelled data, but this means that it has been trained for a very narrow use case. This makes the system incredibly fragile and hard to scale. ‘Without knowing why your customers feel the way they do – or having an accurate understanding of how they’re actually feeling, beyond just “positive” or “negative” – it’s impossible to identify ways to improve’ (CX Magazine, 2017).

Defining Emotion Analysis

Emotion analysis, by contrast, entails a fine-grained, deep dive into the themes associated with each emotion and allows businesses to discover which emotions impact customer experience. Emotions, by their very nature, are both continuous and subject to constant change. Emotion Analysis pinpoints these changes based on the intensity of the emotions people are feeling. For example, instead of blankly revealing that 10% of customers respond negatively to a certain brand, emotion analysis will reveal three key pieces of information. First, it will reveal what the emotion is. Second, it will show how intense this emotion is, and third, it will tell you what the emotion being expressed relates to. Here At Adoreboard, we have created 8 emotion indexes which cover each primary emotion as set out in the psychological model of emotion.

3 Reasons to use Emotion Analysis

Sentiment analysis oversimplifies the data: Dividing things into positive and negative sentiment just isn’t meaningful, as it doesn’t provide the full picture. For decision makers, sentiment does not help to prioritise the importance of data. Instead, it places data into three boxes labelled ‘positive’, ‘negative’ and ‘neutral’. Human emotion is so incredibly complex that it takes more than traditional sentiment analysis to understand it. At Adoreboard, we gauge emotion across a 24-point scale underpinned by 8 individual emotion indexes. This provides a much more nuanced and accurate view of emotion than the traditional “positive-neutral-negative” options common in sentiment analysis.

Sentiment can’t answer Business Questions in the way that Emotion Analysis can: Simply put, if sentiment analysis provides the ‘what’, then emotion analysis goes far beyond this to explain the ‘why’. The key difference is that ‘emotions capture both polarity and intensity, where sentiment is limited to one dimension’ (Walker, 2016). If you ask a sentiment analysis engine to determine the biggest emotional driver for customer churn, at best you will get a percentage of ‘positive’, ‘negative’ and ‘neutral’ mentions, along with a topic wheel. This is not really fit for purpose and certainly not something that could be presented at board level. Emotion Analysis provides an exploratory approach – identifying the contributing factors to each emotional index so you not only discover the root cause, but are also able to prioritise the decisions you need to make.

Approaches need to match real-world use cases: The shift towards Emotion Analysis has been driven by a number of market factors. In part, the underlying industry response to sentiment analysis is: We can do better than this. Secondly, the rise of customer experience, and how this disrupts how brands engage with customers, also plays a role. When customer loyalty is on the line, you need to understand what elements of the customer experience are driving customer disgust, so immediate action can be taken. Forrester, in their top trends for 2017, state that firms will begin to quantify and better harness the power of customer emotion to drive affinity and spend.

Leading academics, top marketers and market research companies are calling for new forms of emotion analytics that effectively render sentiment analysis obsolete. Professor Bing Liu of the University of Chicago has urged businesses to seek alternatives to “the problem of sentiment analysis” (Bing Liu, 2012). Forrester (2015) demand that “CX professionals must update their measurement programs to capture emotions”. Finally, leading digital and strategy supremo Mat Morrison said it best in his 2011 presentation entitled ‘Sentiment Analysis is Sh*te’, bemoaning the shortcomings of sentiment analysis in marketing.

Whether you’re a start-up or multinational, E-commerce store or SaaS company, if you want to find out how your customers and prospective customers really feel about your products, services or brand, Adoreboard can help.

Our emotion analysis software goes beyond the quantitative measure of emotion to derive qualitative benefit. We enable an integration of data from social networks, surveys (including NPS verbatim), press releases and blogs and distil this down into evidenced insights. So the next time you are asked about sentiment versus emotion analysis, let’s not think of them as linked, like ‘tequila and bad decisions’. Instead let’s think about how emotion analysis can create decision ready insights providing the perfect link to building better customer experiences or improving business performance.

If you’d like to find out more about Adoreboard’s products and services, contact marketing.team@adoreboard.com