Facial Coding & Drinking Coffee

Determining Emotional & Rational Responses

When a person first experiences something, their face gives away their emotions through small muscle contractions called micro-expressions. People make choices in only a few milliseconds; the emotional and cognitive centres in the brain made the decision before you realise you have made the decision.

So, while you are forming your first impressions or making a decision, your facial expressions are giving away your thoughts before you even know you’ve had them!

This is really important for market researchers as it gives an insight into emotional thoughts and reactions before a person’s rational processes take over and influence they way they act.

Market researchers can use facial coding and eye tracking to understand how people think and feel.

Eye tracking allows researchers to see where the viewers (e.g. of an advert, video game etc.) are looking, the results of which can later be analysed to provide evidence of visual patterns. This is very popular in research into effective adverts, websites, television programmes, commercials, and many more.

Eye tracking can be used to assess the effectiveness of branding, navigation usability, advertisements, and overall design by examining fixation, blinking, pupil dilation, and saccades (the fast movement of eyes).

Facial coding looks at the facial expressions caused by contractions and relaxations of the facial muscles, voluntary and involuntary (the difference being that involuntary ones are much faster and fleeting than voluntary ones). These are basically system 1 and system 2 responses. System 1 is generally automatic and affective, which means it relies on mental “shortcuts” i.e. they are emotional responses. System 2 is more controlled, slow, effortful and conscious i.e. they are rational responses.

“System 1 is really in charge as it effortlessly originates impressions and feelings that are the main sources of the explicit beliefs and deliberate choices of System 2”  – John Pawle & Dominique Delfaud

We used facial coding in our study into cappuccino flavours (How does your cappuccino feel?) to see the system 1 responses and compare them to system 2 responses. We were testing new and unusual cappuccino flavours and found that consumers first reactions are to try and recognise the flavours rather than determine if they actually like or dislike them.

When the brain experiences an unexpected taste they show surprise as a system 1 response, but once the taste buds become acclimatised to the flavour, perhaps after a second taste, they may become more positive (or negative) about it, showing their system 2 response.

This shows that experience of the taste changes over time as system 2 responses take over from system 1 responses. We found that unrecognised or foreign tastes can produce a negative or uncertain system 1 response, but consumers learn to appreciate a taste as they become more familiar with it.

But recognised flavours tended to produce positive system 1 responses and system 2 responses remained positive, indicating that we like what we know as they tap into our emotions and memories to elicit a positive emotional response.

By using facial coding we got a unique insight into people’s emotional responses to flavour and how their rational responses can take over after more exposure to a flavour to change their initial emotional perceptions.

Read more here!

This video by Huffington Post of Kids tasting coffee for the first time will make your day (but it also shows some great system 1 & system 2 responses so it’s academic really…)

The QRi Team x

Great Adverts: Less App, More Apple

We thought it might be fun to write a little about some great ads that are out there.

Here is an ad by Somersby brought out the summer of 2013:

Somerbsy Cider: Less App, More Apple

For anyone that has ever gone into an Apple store, this is a perfect parody, with enthusiastic staff in matching t-shirts using techno jargon to promote their Apple (cider) products, giving demonstrations and allowing their customers to try out their product for themselves. They tap into and poke fun at (in a loving way) why people queue for hours to view and buy an Apple product, something that many of us have experienced.

The QRi Team x

First Impressions from Facial Expressions

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

Everyone knows that we shouldn’t ‘judge a book by its cover’, but unfortunately, that is exactly what we all do, intentionally or not, consciously or not; within the first 39 milliseconds of meeting someone, we have formed our first impressions (Bar, Neta, Linz, (2006) Very First Impressions, Emotion 6 (2): 269-278).

The dimensions of the face are what can make someone look dominant, trustworthy, or attractive and slight changers to these dimensions can affect whether someone finds you approachable, intimidating, intelligent, or untrustworthy.


According to Dr Tom Hartley, there are three dimensions of a first impression:

  1. Approachability – how approachable is this person? Will they help me? Will they hinder me?
  2. Dominance – how capable are they of carrying out their intentions?
  3. Attractiveness – is this person a potential romantic partner? Are they young and good looking?

However, studies suggest that these first impressions can be deeply misleading. A study by Alexander Todorov of Princeton University on people’s first impressions based on still photographs suggests that there is not a static link between face and personality.

“The face is not a still image frozen in time but rather a constantly shifting stream of expressions that convey different mental states” write Todorov and his colleague Jenny Porter. So why do we form opinions so quickly?

It’s something we picked up from childhood, possibly even infancy. A study, published in Psychological Science, found that children as young as three form first impressions based on facial expressions, judging a person’s characteristics such as trustworthiness and competence by looking at their face.

Infants learn to read facial expressions, with activity in the left temporal region of the brain activated by processing positive faces and the right activated by processing negative expressions. This has been linked to our basic survival instincts; positive expressions convey a pleasant meaning, whereas negative expressions convey danger.

Reading facial expressions and making judgements based on them is actually acquired behaviour, something we have honed from infancy. However, in this day and age, with a daily assault of photos of people on social media, this actually might be of detriment to us. Not only in the sense that you can falsely make a judgement about someone based purely on a profile picture, but that people can also manipulate you into falsely believing that they possess certain characteristics such as trustworthiness by a well-chosen (or photoshopped) image. Alternatively, you may be putting a bad or negative image of yourself out there, and based on how quickly people form first impressions, one poorly chosen photo on your Facebook or LinkedIn page may even be enough to influence the first (and sometimes lasting) impression of a potential employer, colleague or friend.

The QRi team x

Generation Z


There has been a lot in the media about Generation Y over the past few years – who are they, what makes them different to Generation X and the Baby Boomers, how are they affecting markets, trends, and the economy, how will they change the way things are done now?

But now, the time has come to ask those same questions again of a different generation, Generation Z.

There is a debate about when Generation Z starts, with some arguing that the earliest members were born in 2000 and others saying they go back as far as 1990, which would mean that the oldest members are now in their early 20s.

So what defines Generation Z? While definitions vary, their general characteristics are as follows:

They are often the children of Generation X, and are completely unique as they have grown up with the internet, never having known a time without it; they are avid networkers, using social networks and mobile phones as their main means of communication and entertainment; and are often referred to as Digital Natives.


The importance of digital media in their lives has had a massive effect on the way that they work and interact with others. Gen Z-ers ‘multi-screen‘, multitasking across up to five platforms daily and spend the majority of their time on computers and mobile devices. Their constant connection to the world (ironically also a sort of disconnection) has given them a fear of missing out, meaning that being connected to social media has become critical in their everyday lives.

But there is much more to Generation Z, than social networking and technology.

Gen Z-ers’ most informative years have existed in a world post-9/11, most not remembering or having experienced relaxed security at airports, or a time before the ‘War on Terror’ or economic recession. This has given them a sense of social justice, philanthropy and maturity. Unfortunately, Gen Z has been given a bad rep by the media in the UK, often being portrayed as selfish, binge drinking, insensitive, badly behaved and out of control. (As if to prove my point, when I searched Google for figures of the number of people in the UK that are 20 or younger, the first page spits up statistics about smoking, binge drinking, drugs, unemployment, and STIs).

About 30.7% of the UK population is below the age of 24, and whilst there are some issues with disaffected youths in this generation, the majority are healthy, respectful, ambitious individuals who care about their education and the world around them. Nothing sums up better how many Gen Z-ers are feeling than this letter by a 16 year old girl written to The Times:


Sir, I am getting increasingly annoyed at the barrage of articles about teenagers, and the adults who keep trying to explain our behaviour (“Moods and meltdowns: what’s inside the teenage brain?, Mar 1).

I am 16 and a straight-A student, like most of my friends. We are not as irrational and immature as adults seem to think. We’ve grown up with financial crises and accept that most of us will be unemployed. We no longer flinch at bloody images of war because we’ve grown up seeing the chaos in the Middle East and elsewhere. Most of us are cynical and pessimistic because of the environment we’ve grown up in – which should be explanation enough for our apparent insolence and disrespect, without “experts” having to write articles about it.

Has no one ever seen that we are angry at the world we live in? Angry that we will have to clean up your mess, while you hold us in contempt, analysing our responses as though we were another species?

I would like adults to treat us not as strange creatures from another world but as human beings with intelligent thought – a little different from yours, perhaps, but intelligent thought nonetheless.

Stop teaching adults how to behave around us, and instead teach them how to respect us.

Jenni Herd

Kilmarnock, E Ayrshire


Why is all of this so important?

Well, mostly because Generation Z is growing up; they are entering adulthood and starting to have a serious effect on the economy, businesses, technology, media, and so much more, and their influence will only grow.

A study in New York discovered that up to 60% of Gen Z want to change the world or have some impact on the world, compared to 39% of Gen Y, with roughly a quarter of Gen Z-ers being involved in some sort of volunteering. They are much more entrepreneurial than previous generations, with the majority of Gen Z-ers interviewed saying they want to start their own business and be self-employed.

Possibly for these reasons, and a kind of ‘anyone-can-do-it’ attitude, they lack brand loyalty. More concerned with the product than the brand, they will quickly abandon a brand in favour of higher quality. This means that companies will have to rethink their brand and product strategies to always be at the forefront of their field, otherwise they will start losing a large and influential customer base. Their constant connectivity means that they know about things the moment they are happening, and a sort of prestige has developed around being the first to know and spread the word. Companies need to be reaching out to these people first, as the second they know about something, the rest of their network knows too.

But perhaps the most important thing is not to patronise this generation. They have grown up with more access to real world content than any generation before them, and have grown up with full, un-censored knowledge of what is happening in the world. The most important part of Jenni Herd’s letter to The Times is where she asks for youths to be treated as ‘human beings with intelligent thought – a little different from yours, perhaps, but intelligent thought nonetheless’.

It is this feeling that companies need to tap into if they want to be successful with this generation. Don’t be a ‘try-hard’, be genuine. Gen Z-ers know the difference, a skill they have been taught through their constant connection to the internet, they have learnt how to distinguish between the best brands and the top quality products, and the brands that are faking it, trying too hard or not authentic.

Gen Z-ers judge each product on its merits – Mashable used the example of two movies that were release in 2009, one based its marketing strategies on the fact that there were two well-known actors from popular movies, so therefore, this movie must be good. The other built its reputation through film festivals and small scale releases, until word of mouth took over. The first movie (called Year One) made just $62 million, the second (Paranormal Activity) made $193 million, with very little marketing. This goes to show that Gen Z-ers make their own judgements, and take quality over popularity, platform, production value or brand name. They have been described as ‘Curators’ because they collect or curate their own version of the world through what they wear, watch and read.

Finally, as this generation is so connected, it is important to generate (but not dominate or domineer) a conversation with Gen Z-ers. If you can do this effectively, word of mouth marketing will take over, and they will create a transparency around your brand (bad as well as good) that will help you develop and innovate to improve your brand and products and help your future success.

The QRi Team x


Is Good Customer Service All It Takes?

Forming and nurturing good relationships between a company and its customer base is the one of the most vital and effective actions a company can take to ensure their success. Promotional engagement of a company or brand is an effective marketing strategy as it directly engages consumers; the consumers can see their in-put from the changes the company has adopted and a relationship between the consumer and company will be developed through this engagement. An example of a company that has begun to change its image through engagement marketing, by listening to their consumers and implementing the changes they have suggested is Ryanair.

Ryanair, the budget airline, has seen its net income double in the second quarter of 2014, rising to £156m. Their chief financial officer Howard Miller has put this down to improvements in customer service. The previously reviled airline company, seems to be turning its image around and attracting new customers that would have previously shunned the company. Within a year Ryanair saw their number of passengers increase by 3% up to 81.7 million. They have put this mostly down to improving customer experience and enhancing their service through many small changes. These include:

  • Allocating seats

    Issues with bad customer service a thing of the past?

    Issues with bad customer service a thing of the past?

  • Simpler website design
  • Free 2nd carry on
  • ‘Quiet flights’
  • 24 hour grace period for booking errors to be corrected
  • Reduced boarding card and bag fees
  • A new service for group bookings and corporate travellers
  • Families can receive discounts

These are initiatives from the ‘Always Getting Better‘ programme which is hoped to keep increasing the number of Ryanair passengers and expand their customer base to encompass corporate travel and business customers. So maybe good customer service really is all it takes to be successful. Ryanair was previously known for its extremely cheap flights but terrible customer service (there are many horror stories circulating about the service of the Ryanair airline and it was even been cited as the worst brand for customer service in 2013), but now it seems to be turning its image around, keeping its low cost flights and improving its other services to really compete with other budget airlines. Although, it may take some time to see how effective this customer service reform is in the long term on their image as a budget airline; there seems to be a lot of negativity  to dispel first.


The QRi Team x