moodgeisting matters

I see marketing evolving into mood management, shifting from directing consumer behavior to mood manipulation. I’m curious how mood affects and reflects behavior and culture.  I’ve noticed a number of innovative mood-centric products and services popping up in recent months suggesting the beginning of a moodgeist:

  • mood TV  The BBC in the UK is developing the iPTV which will read moods to suggest programming. They say, “slump on the sofa and switch on the TV. The TV’s built-in camera detects your body movements, analyses your face and detects that you’re in a bad mood; it searches your home entertainment ‘cloud’ – its contents already shaped to your viewing behavior – and plays you something uplifting like Apollo 13 or The Shawshank Redemption.”
  • mood foods Nutritional scientists are finding that certain foods impact our moods, so the foods we choose can change our moods. Every bite we take triggers the release of hormones affecting +100,000 chemical reactions that go on in our brains each second. A restaurant in Philippines called “Van Gogh is Bipolar” only serves all-natural “happy hormone producing” foods intended to lift customers’ moods by lifting serotonin and dopamine. 
  • mood H20  Australia has a “naturally positive” bottled spring water called “A Bottle Of…” which offers bottles of “love,” “strength” and “well being”. The founder believes, “hydraters can change their thoughts with gulps of positive thinking.”
  • mood cars  Nissan is working on a concept car that has a robot in the dashboard that reads the mood of the driver. The rationale is that when drivers are happy, the accident rate is drastically lower. Mood recognition technology reads facial expressions, word choice and speaking tone.
  • mood rooms  RoomRender, another Japanese company, creates rooms (for $45,000) that respond to the mood of its occupants. A FeelingWall has colored lights that change according to the mood of the people in the room.  It interprets emotions based on the intonation and rhythm of voices, adjusting room color and lighting accordingly. RoomRender also offers fragrance-based responses to moods. One can walk into the room and announce “I’m tired,” and have the room dim the lights, turn off the TV, alter the composition of the lights, turn on some background music and release soothing sleep-inducing fragrances.

 oscar mayer’s good mood mission

One of the more interesting mood-based marketing campaigns is the Oscar Mayer Good Mood Mission. I posted a good mood sentiment on the website this morning, along with thousands of other good mood thoughts and listened to some happy music on the website, and my mood was lifted!  Oscar Mayer donates 1 lb of food to families in need for each good mood sentiment posted. Go on, it only takes 5 seconds – as much time as it takes to Tweet. And since the majority of Tweets are vents for complaints (major downers), this is positive alternative.\

mood designers: marketing rock stars

A number of former brand experience designers are now repositioning themselves (executive reinvention?) as “mood designers.”  Mood design is the new sexy marketing discipline. Companies like Mood Media talk mood-speak to sell their mood-altering visuals, interactive displays, intuitive technologies, music, scent and lighting. DJs, like the talented Frank Cunha, offer mood-shaping rhythms to match and manipulate the mood of a party. It won’t be long until the CXOs (chief experience officer) are replaced or augmented by CMDs (chief mood designer).

emotional contagion as mood fractals

The University of Chicago has found that loneliness (a mood) is as infectious as a virus, spreading in a process called “emotional contagion.” The people we surround ourselves with have a tremendous impact on our well-being, physically and emotionally. We know that viruses spread like fractals (the geometric building blocks of life; repetitious patterns that naturally occur in the texture of all surfaces). So, what if moods spread like fractals? All I know is that if you watch this video of morphing fractals I assure you your mood will change for the better.

The study of cultural moods and their evolutionary patterns – such a fractal patterns – is possible if we have quantitative data on moods. Alas, that time has come!

cultural mood mapping

Reading the mood of a culture – mapping moods – is now a science.  I use social listening tools for  trend forecasting that aggregate all the conversations and chatter on social media (Twitter, Websites, blogs, RSS feeds, chat rooms, skype, etc.). From this I can identify conversation threads and trends, including cultural moods. Services such as Radian6, Google Zeitgeist, Converseon can take a word like “worried”, or a phrase like “I hate my job,” and quantify the number of mentions.  Word- and phrase-counts form word clouds, which can be used to assess the overall mood of the population. I can then dive into the details of the conversations and analyze the context for perspective.  So, social listening tools can help quantify social sentiment and cultural mood swings. 

In addition, Gallup regularly publishes a mood-measure poll that is a good indicator of America’s mood.  According to Gallup there are basically three personas in America: Thrivers, Strugglers and Sufferers.  I’ve mapped these three personas (left) to better understand what’s driving their moods.  What’s interesting to me as a marketer is that 43% of America is ill-content and optimistic (Struggling). This explains all the hyper-competitiveness in society today.  That’s why there’s such a demand for: ultra, super, maximum, professional strength performance products; superfoods and energy drinks; RSS feeds for breaking news; and productivity iPhone Apps.

who knew mood is genetic?

Temperament is our overall personality, disposition and attitude towards life; the way we deal with change and crisis.  Overlaid on this, are moods, which are periods in which we feel a certain way – up or down.  Emotions are short-term feelings that shape our overall mood.  Our temperament determines how we deal with moods and emotions. For example, I’m in a good mood knowing that my home-brew beer is fermenting with the prospect of a great party looming. But when the batch didn’t turn out as hoped, my emotion – disappointment – soured my upbeat mood, despite my naturally “phlegmatic” (easy-going) personality.

Certain cultures are predisposed to possess certain temperaments, moods and emotions. I’ve come to learn that beings are born with a temperament, which is evident at infancy, but early life experiences can cause a temperament to change (e.g., if a naturally happy, adaptive outgoing “sanguine” baby is ignored by its mother it can turn “choleric”). Temperament is genetic, and temperament affects our overall mood, so it’s possible that some people are genetically hard-wired to be in better moods than others. These people will deal with novelty, change and surprise better than others. In other words, some temperaments will fair better than others during this economic crisis.

mood hoovers

With that said, we all know some people who are downers, who tend to suck the good mood out of situations: mood hoovers (according to the Urban Dictionary).  Usually these are the discontent and pessimistic/cynical people – which Gallup calls the “Suffering 3%.”  Knowing that these Mood Hoovers are the way they are due to genetics (i.e., they can’t help it) makes them more tolerable. 

Doesn’t it seem like more people around me are depressed than usual? But the New Yorker Magazine this week explains that being depressed could be a good thing for society because depression – melancholy and despair – are natural reactions to a crappy situation. It’s the way humans deal and heal. There is much to be depressed about: war, terrorism, economic turmoil, corporate fraud, eco-disasters, nuclear threats, political blunders, pandemics, fallen sports heroes, product recalls, food safety issues, etc. 

I understand a majority of people classified as “depressed” are actually suffering from “anxiety.”  Apparently, nearly 10% of the US population is suffering from depression right now. Some other stats about depression follow from various websites:

  • Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants. At least four percent of preschoolers — over a million — are clinically depressed.
  • The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23% p.a.
  • 15% of the population of most developed countries suffers severe depression.
  • 30% of women are depressed. Men’s figures were previously thought to be half that of women, but new estimates are higher.
  • 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness.
  • 41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help
  • 80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment.
  • 92% of depressed African-American males do not seek treatment.
  • 15% of depressed people will commit suicide.
  • Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020 — and studies show depression is a contributory factor to fatal coronary disease.

Scary stats. To me, this is good reason to monitor the moodgeist and promote enhanced mood experience design.


2 thoughts on “moodgeisting matters

  1. Hey from Radian6! I’m interested to see how brand experience design plays into mood manipulation. No doubt the two are tied, but I’m intrigued by seeing more chatter around both of these topics popping up.


    Katie Morse
    @misskatiemo | Radian6

  2. Dr. Paul Ekman (the psychologist who inspired the TV show Lie to Me) defines mood as a slight but continuous emotional state that inclines us to certain emotions. For example, being in a “blue mood” inclines us to become sad. Or being in a grouchy mood inclines us to erupt in anger at some otherwise innocuous provocation. See his book _Emotions Revealed_.

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