La Vanguardia – ‘E-motional’ outbreak, September 2015
Article by: Pablo Foncillas, Lecturer IESE Business School and Albert Muntané Casanova, Guest lecturer URJC and UIB
Years ago it was proven that moods are contagious, that is, that people feeling sad or happy can transfer these feeling onto others.
What would happen if we tried to do that digitally? Meaning, which are the digital tools capable of effecting an emotional change in people? Months ago an article was published in which the authors (specialists linked to Facebook and the University of Cornell) claimed that moods can be transferred to other people through emotional infection, and that it can be done without interpersonal interaction. Let’s call it e-motions (electronical emotions). They base this claim on an experiment carried out on Facebook in 2012 where the wall of 689.003 souls was influenced (or manipulated) to show the user positive or negative information. From there the content published by those users was analyzed, and it was observed that those who had seen negative information transmitted negative messages and vice-versa. Taking this exercise to the extreme, it could be said that Facebook can make us feel better or worse. Polemic? Keep reading, things can get worse.
Now imagine that any social network, given that it knows it can influence moods, presents to their “clients” information intended to create a “negative moment” and immediately shows advertisements of products or services that generate some sort of wellbeing (for instance, news of some disaster, say a house burning down, on which friends have written a post, paired with an advertisement for home insurance). Can we go a bit further in using the mood we have generated in this person? Can we influence the price the consumer is ready to pay? The answer is yes. How? Modifying the price shown to the user, applying a technic called dynamic pricing, to get better income for the advertising company. Why? Because by influencing moods you are pushing the user towards acquiring the product, and we all know that this contributes to inflating the price.
While what we described seems theoretically simple, its execution today is very difficult due to the technological complexity and knowledge management it requires. Moreover, you could avoid it with digital education, that is, developing e-motional antibodies.