Kansei Design and the Evocation of Emotion in Advertising The late Dennis Hopper¶s compelling portrayal of depraved psychopath

Frank Booth, in David Lynch¶s 1985 film Blue Velvet , is the stuff of nightmares. Drunken rampages, obscure sexual peccadilloes and Italian nightclub singers aside, what¶s most tellingly complex about this character is his silenced, understated weeping when certain buttons are pressed. For example, upon hearing a renditi on of Roy Orbison¶s In Dreams, he becomes a weakened bowl of emotional mush.

What is it that can provoke such an intense display of emotion? While individually we¶re pre disposed to responses based on our own life experiences, conditioning a nd opinions, there are more subliminal, universal responses we all react to.

We¶re all subject to having our emotional responses manipulated to some degree ± Disney has a lot to answer for ± but how could brands d o this? Is there a formula at work?

To some extent, yes there is ± Kansei Design ± a Japanese concept that seeks to forge emotional connections between people and brand s. On a basic level, the K ansei concept of blending sensitivity and oneness with nature , is very clear cut, but on a technical level ± it¶s highly complex.

Kansei engineering , popular in automotive design, refers to the translation of consumers' psychological feeling s about a product into perceptual design elements. Sometimes referred to as "sensory engine ering" or "emotional usa bility" this technique involves determining which sensory attributes elicit particular subjective responses from people, and then designing a product using the attributes which elicit the desired responses .

Do with that information what you will ± but don¶t be overwhelmed by the words.

In a very superficial way, it makes perfect sense ± find out what makes people like a product, make it look appealing, and exploit that. However, i f brands truly want to become more meaningful to people¶ s lives they need to get inside their heads, and what better way of doing so that by eliciting a raw emotional experience?

I¶m not talking about people identifying with brands, liking a TV campaign or engaging with its Facebook community ± imagine if a brand could instil fear, panic, euphoria or hysteria in the way it¶s presented.

How could a box of chocolates make someone cry? What if it a new flavour of soda could make people laugh uncontrollably? What psychological stimulus is needed to turn buyers away from a competitor product?

Supposing this sort of insight was available ± what would brands do with this information at their disposal? It¶d be total carnage.

Perhaps we¶d all end up like Frank ± hypersensitive, dangerously unstable and prone to substance abuse.

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