Facial Coding: What, Why, and How to Use Facial Coding in Marketing?

Facial coding is a research technique used to analyze facial expressions to understand human emotions and behaviors. Here's how it can be used in marketing.

Reshu Rathi
February 22, 2023
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We all know that emotions drive human decisions, and people buy for emotional reasons. As Zig Ziglar famously said, "People don't buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons."

If you are a marketer, you must be aware that your consumer "emotion mind" plays a crucial role when deciding whether to make a purchase. And that people buy emotions, not products or services. But did you know that 80% of consumers' decisions are fueled by emotion, not logic? So, if you are a marketer, you must appeal to consumers' emotions to succeed.

Now you must be wondering how to understand consumer emotions so you can appeal to them. Well, you can use Emotion AI technologies like Facial Coding, Eye Tracking, and Speech Emotion Recognition to understand consumer emotions and improve your marketing.


In this post, we will look at how facial coding technology can help you better understand your customers' emotions by reading their facial expressions. And we will be exploring answers to the following questions:

  • What is facial coding?
  • How does facial coding work?
  • Why do marketers need facial coding?
  • What are the benefits of facial coding in marketing?

What is Facial Coding?  

We all know that our face conveys emotions through facial expressions; facial coding is the process of measuring those human emotions. With the help of computer vision, powered by AI and machine learning, emotions can be detected via webcam or mobile cam. The tech tracks every muscle movement on the face or all-action units (AU) based on the FACS (facial action coding system). But before we dive into the working and implementation of facial coding, let us understand why facial expressions are the best way to determine subconscious emotions.

Facial expressions and emotions go hand in hand. It is the primary means of non-verbal communication among humans. Since it is an involuntary function, facial expressions are hard to control. For example, a person trying to contain their happiness might nevertheless have a smile. Capturing these expressions can help us tap into the consumer’s subconscious mind, which is responsible for most of their decisions.

With the advancement of Emotion AI technology, a sub-set of artificial intelligence, it is now possible to gauge people’s emotions as they browse websites, watch content, or shop online. Facial coding technology empowers brands by allowing them to test their products and ads to provide the best ROI (Return on Investment) on their marketing campaigns.

How Does Facial Coding Work, and Why do Marketers Need Facial Coding?  

The science behind this technology is quite simple; it works by capturing facial emotions through a webcam or smartphone camera. So, this technology just relies on opt-in viewers to enable their device cameras to detect their facial expressions and capture second by second and frame by frame response. And it does this anonymously.


It analyzes those emotions by using computer vision and machine learning. Computers are taught to recognize people’s facial expressions and associate them with the correct emotions (Happiness, Sadness, Surprise, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Contempt). Machine Learning algorithms are trained with each emotion separately to increase the precision and allow them to detect multiple emotions on the same face.  

In other words, this technology lets businesses decode the messages consumers are conveying with their faces through their facial expressions into quantifiable metrics to improve the success of their business. By taking advantage of facial coding technology, marketers have an opportunity to gain genuine, instinctual insights which measure how consumers truly feel about an advertisement, product, or service what they truly like or dislike about it.

This technology is quite simple to implement in practice - you do not need hardware or technical expertise to use it. For example, let us assume that you have three sets of market-ready ads for a product you are not sure how to pick the best one - facial coding technology can help you choose the best one.  


You can show the ads to shoppers and use this technology to capture their facial reactions. This technology picks up even the slightest expressions that the respondent may not even be aware of and immediately translates this data into a set of emotions.  

These emotions, in turn, can indicate the extent to which a particular ad is liked or disliked and what type of feelings it has evoked in your respondents.

Now, before we jump into how facial coding can help marketers - let us first discuss the ethical considerations of using this technology.

The Ethics of Facial Coding

As we mentioned above facial coding technology uses a webcam or smartphone camera to capture facial expressions. But it does so by requesting permission to gain access to the webcam or mobile cam.

So, the user's permission is required to access their camera and all this data is captured with consent. And no video is shared. Only the emotion data of the users are captured through their facial expressions and shared in real-time. The emotions on a person's face are captured as binary units (0 and 1). Hence no PII (Personally Identifiable Information) related to race, ethnicity, gender, or age is captured at any point in time.  

Also, for facial-recognition algorithms to work well, they must be trained and tested on large data, and all these data sets are captured with permission too.  

At Entropik, the data set that is used for classifying emotions has been collected over three years from across the globe, with each frame of the data set and the emotion being tagged by human annotators. This data set is constantly reviewed and updated to avoid potential bias or vagueness in classifying emotions.  


Also, the user's permission is required to access the webcam or mobile cam, and no video is shared. Only the emotion data of the users are captured through their facial expressions and shared in real-time.

How Facial Coding Can Enhance the Future of Marketing

The success of any business depends a lot on marketing, and understanding what consumers want is the key to running effective marketing campaigns. One that engages them and converts them to purchase from you. The power of facial coding allows businesses to understand their customers at a deeper subconscious level. Considering that most of your customers' decisions depend primarily on the subconscious mind, marketing must go beyond conscious and explicit and dig into the subconscious and implicit mind.

One of the top reasons for facial coding technology's quick popularity in the marketing space comes from its accessibility; it is easy to leverage this technology. You only need the tech to be integrated into your analytics system as an API/SDK. And it can help even small businesses save money, increase their marketing performance, and boost their marketing ROI. But to make it even more, simpler, and more accessible, we at Affect Lab have enabled this in a DIY platform.

3 Ways Marketers Use Facial Coding

Though there are many ways marketers use facial coding, from testing their UI/UX to product placement to product concept testing to script testing to the point-of-sale testing, etc. Given below are the top 3 ways of using facial coding in marketing

1. It Can Improve Your Advertising Effectiveness  

The war of capturing consumers' attention is becoming more intense in this digital-first world. Do you know consumers see more than 10,000 ads a day, making it tough to draw their attention? But attention alone is not the answer. The first need is attention because we know that attention is declining. Once you have gotten that attention, you need to tap into the subconscious behavior that drives 95% of purchase decisions. Brands can tap into subconscious behavior by utilizing facial coding technology. Ad testing with facial coding enables marketers to get a broader, richer, and more accurate view of how their advertising will perform.

By using facial coding technology, marketers can measure their consumers' expression revealing their unbiased feelings. And can make their advertising more effective by taking the guesswork out of advertising. For example, you can check the effectiveness of your ad copy by doing copy testing. When showing respondents ads, facial coding can be used to gauge their response in terms of understanding and copy appeal. And based on the results, you can improve copy parts that are currently eliciting confusion or low engagement.

The traditional ad testing method does not capture emotional responses unbiased by self-awareness and social desirability. This is where facial coding can help. Based on facial expression analysis, marketers can optimize ads. By leveraging this technology, brands can gain insight into a consumer's subconscious and can use these deep personal insights to run successful ad campaigns - one that resonates with customers.

Remember, success in online advertising relies more on the viral effect, which depends heavily on understanding and interpreting emotions.

2. Generate Accurate Consumer Insights in Real-Time  

We all know that customer experience (CX) is a critical component of the business ecosystem; a flawless CX can help drive repeat business and, ultimately, brand loyalty. To deliver a flawless CX, marketers need to better understand both existing and potential customers, and traditional research methods cannot do that.

By employing facial coding, brands can gain insight into consumers' subconscious, automatic/instinctive responses, which drive 95% of purchase decisions. In fact, facial recognition is a highly accurate way to measure unconscious responses, providing an unbiased view of consumer reactions, and this technology can also be used to track your consumers' emotional engagement throughout their path to purchase.

In short, consumer insights that are driven by facial coding will add more value and stand out when compared to consumer insights by traditional methods like surveys, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Also, these insights are much more accurate, and with this technology, marketers can easily measure metrics like emotions, attention, engagement, and noticeability in real-time, accurately capturing every human expression.


3. Optimize Your Product Packaging

Every marketer knows that product packaging could make or break the product's success. And good packaging has a significant impact on shoppers' experience. If the product packaging does not connect to a consumer's heart, they will not drop the product into their shopping cart. So, as a marketer, you are faced with the daunting task of optimizing your product packaging - one that makes a bold statement about your product. But how do you test your product packaging, whether it connects with shoppers on an emotional level or not?

With the help of facial coding technology, you can measure the emotional response of customers to your product packaging and measure its noticeability of elements such as logo, price tag, CTA, color, etc. You can also compare two different package designs to determine the most suited for your product.  

Remember that no response to your product packaging happens more quickly than an emotional one; facial coding is the key to harnessing the power of that instinctive, unfiltered feedback.

Final Thoughts

It is no secret that humans are very much guided by their emotions, and your consumers are no exception to the rule. So, to truly develop a successful marketing campaign or succeed in marketing, understanding your customers is necessary. But getting a deep understanding of consumers' or understanding their emotions has not been easy so far.

However, marketers can easily understand their consumers' emotions using facial coding technology. I want to emphasize that you do not need hardware or technical expertise to get started. So, get your feet wet and see what facial coding can do for your marketing campaigns. As marketing is getting harder, now is the time to bring new tech tools into your toolkit.

Though facial coding is not a new technology, it has been around for a few years, but advertisers and marketers have not fully embraced it yet; it is high time to do that. With facial coding, marketers can take their marketing to a new height by uncovering hidden consumer emotions and quantifying those emotions.

To learn more about Entropik’s facial coding technology, check out our Whitepaper on Facial Coding Technology- To see our technology and platform in action, talk to us.


Supercharge your research with actionable insights faster on Decode's integrated consumer research platform with Insights AI.
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Build the Right Products, the Right Way: Elevate your UX with Qatalyst's integrated user research platform with Insights AI.


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Author Bio

Reshu Rathi
Reshu Rathi is an online marketing and conversion rate enthusiast. She specializes in content marketing, lead generation, and engagement strategy. Her byline can be found all over the web

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