Innovate by understanding customer emotions

Published: 22 Feb 2017

Our VP of People Insight, Thomas Nilsson, was recently interviewed for the Forrester report, Designing For Emotion. For the past 20 years he’s worked with cognitive and emotional aspects of design, applying and developing pioneering methods within the field. We sat down with Thomas for an introduction to the topic and to learn about the latest research.

Tell us about your expertise and your work at Veryday.

My main task is to understand and transform user insights into meaningful business opportunities for our clients. I also help develop Veryday’s research and analysis methods, which are renowned in the global design industry. Our methods are vital for our innovative, successful (and prize-winning!) service and product solutions.

Why is it important to understand your customer’s emotions?

Understanding emotions means that you can design the most compelling experience possible! Pure positive emotions and, hence, meaningful experiences, lead to increased consumer loyalty. Analyzing emotions helps you understand people’s true needs and behaviors, helps you see the full spectrum of a human, including mood, attitude and personality. It’s important to reach beyond the verbal state since often it’s not what we say but how we say it. Our emotions dictate our thoughts. Always remember that an emotion is a combination of a mental and physiological state.

Designing for emotion

Would you give an example of a company or service that’s successfully built a strong emotional connection with customers? 

All types of solutions that are not only relevant and useful but also emotionally engaging are successful. Of course, this work is highly individual and you need to know your customer to predict what would engage them on an emotional level. People’s values and personal interests trigger emotions. In today’s highly competitive market, lack of emotion can be an important signal that your brand is unclear and needs to rethink its value proposition. Strong brands always engage emotions.

What’s the difference between designing for delight and designing for emotion?

Emotions vary widely in nature; that’s why focusing on only one can be limiting. I would rather focus on mixed emotions since sometimes you need to experience negative emotions to attain real arousal. Designing for delight makes the customer feel pleased, but it’s the unexpected that creates a “wow” feeling – those unexpected moments when an experience far exceeds expectations.

What’s the most common mistake companies make when it comes to designing for emotion?

Automatically assuming that every brand triggers some kind of emotion when it’s actually the opposite: people are mostly neutral. Emotions are sparked by services that truly cater to the needs, aspirations and drivers of the customer. Another common mistake is to not work with the full scope of emotions. Trying to reduce negative emotions is difficult and takes a lot of effort; instead I’d suggest using negative emotions to spark positive ones. When you simultaneously offer something positive to balance negative emotions and cater for customer needs, this leaves a lasting impression. It all comes down to strategically investing effort when it’s really worth it.

What’s your best advice for a company that wants to design an emotionally engaging solution?

First you need to find out what your customer connects with and what motivates them. These factors may differ for various types of customers, which is why it’s important to segment customers based on insights. One way to do this is to map the customer journey before, during and after a product or service is experienced.

Designing for emotion

Can you describe the Emotional Experience mapping method and when you use it in client projects?

There are many ways to measure customer emotions. Emotional Experience mapping is particularly good for identifying, mapping, measuring and understanding emotions. The highs and lows of the customer experience provide guidance on where mismatches between customer needs and the nature of a product or service may lie. Maps can be used to evaluate present offerings and generate novel insights that guide future offerings. By measuring emotions the moment they occur and prompting reflection on a psychological level, we capture both basic emotions (e.g., pure happiness, anger) and more self-conscious ones (e.g., pride, guilt).

Why is it important to look at personality when predicting what sparks emotion?

It’s important because people’s personalities affect how they experience products and services. Depending on the personality of the user, response to a given experience may vary greatly. That’s why it’s critical to research all kinds of personalities – not just the type that’s open and extroverted and volunteers for the study.





Thomas Nilsson
Global VP

Tel: +46 733 611 244



Johanna Desthon
Manager Corporate Communications

Tel: +46 730 482 272