Discovering Authentic Emotions – Even When They Are Not Explicitly Communicated

Jul 7, 2022

(Part 3 of a 4part blog series helping brands think like real people)

In this, our third blog post exploring how economic and societal pressures are impacting real people, we’re going to be exploring the role that understanding humans’ emotions plays in helping brands innovate and communicate with empathy. 

All of us are living through a confluence of pandemic emergence and economic uncertainty, and all of us are experiencing it differently and are impacted by it in unique ways. Too often, brands get caught up at the macro level, looking at the data and the trends but forgetting there are real people behind the numbers. In early May 2022, we fielded a proprietary study to better understand how people were thinking and feeling amid the shifting trends. Our analysis of that data looks at the trends through the lens of Agile Human Experience Intelligence™ – a multi-dimensional approach exploring how people’s needs, emotions, personalities, and context influence their decision making and behaviors. We call this approach, GutCheckonomics. 

Emotions On And Beneath The Surface

Our first post in this series focused on Universal Needs and we saw that, on average, people today across all generations and income levels are operating with deficits in the areas of esteem, love and belonging.  

In our last post, we focused on important elements of the macro-level context in which people are living today. In this post, we will discuss the emotions people are experiencing at a surface level as well as what lies beneath that they may not be expressing as directly.​ 

As shown in Figure 1, as they think about the summer ahead, many people say they are hopeful, happy, or excited, but a sizable group is anxious or fearful. These results are self-reports from a list of 8 emotions plus other’, so are more of a surface-level, top of mind measure of the emotions they are experiencing as they think about what lies ahead for them over the summer months.​ 


Analysis of results from close-ended survey questions for N=1008 people.​

Figure 1. Emotions & Feelings about the Summer (Self-Reported)


But we also asked an open-ended question asking them to describe how they feel as they think about this summer. Below is some of what they said so you can hear their voices directly. 



Applying hybrid natural language processing (NLP) and coding the emotions detected in these text-based responses revealed additional depth. Beneath the surface, this previously identified positive outlook is fragile.  Although happiness rises to the top, stress and fear loom larger than people are saying directly.   


Q. Type in text of open end. Total: n=345 with detectable emotion out of 983 valid OEs after cleaning 

Figure 2. Emotions & Feelings about the Summer (Detected)


Brands & Emotion 

Brands that are seeking to increase empathy and connect authentically with people while the economic and societal turbulence continue should not under-estimate the fears and anxieties that people have just below the surface. You may want to supplement rating or scaled data with results about emotions from natural language processing. And, more specifically, given the mix of emotions people are expressing about this summer, empathetic brands should work to address both aspirations and anxieties. 

Brands & Recency 

Due in large part to the current speed of change and confluence of many impactful economic and societal changes, people’s emotions are on a roller-coaster. What they felt a year ago when you last spoke to them may have changed significantly in a relatively short time frame. You may consider refreshing your knowledge to understand how they are feeling today and heading into the next few months, ensuring your messaging platforms are not out of touch with their current needs and feelings. 


Coming Soon: GutCheckonomics Part 4: Personality Traits – In light of economic and societal changes, what can personality traits tell us about how people make usage, purchase, and investment decisions. 




Hybrid natural language processing is a methodology built into GutCheck’s Innovation Illuminator solution, that helps brands build deeper and broader levels of authentic human understanding so they can bring innovate products, services and campaigns to market that connect at a more empathetic level with the people they seek to serve. 

GutCheck’s Agile Human Experience Intelligence framework brings new understanding about the real people shaping and being shaped by the current trends. This is helping brands get closer and stay closer to the people they serve. If you want your brand to thrive by innovating and communicating with empathy, let’s talk. 

If you’d like to learn more about our unique GutCheckonomics approach, check out our hub. 

Study Details: GutCheck interviewed 1,008 adults on May 2-3, 2022, via an online survey. The sample was balanced on age by sex, region, and household income to census targets for the US 18-74 population.   


Written By

Renee Smith

Renee Smith

Chief Research Officer

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