Unilever's Marmite uses facial recognition to test consumer tastes
Marmite, the British food spread marketed by Unilever, debuted a website that uses facial recognition to read people’s reactions to the paste made from yeast extract. Consumers are asked to taste-test Marmite while visiting the “TasteFace” web app on a smartphone (or a desktop computer with a camera) to test their reactions, Adweek reported.
The TasteFace app, which is built on the Microsoft Emotion API, will read a person’s facial response and gauge how much the product is loved or reviled on a scale of 0 to 100. Digital ad agency AnalogFolk helped to develop the TasteFace app.
The facial recognition feature is part of a broader “Marmite Gene Project” that claims to have scientific evidence that heredity determines whether someone likes Marmite. The brand offered saliva test kits to obtain DNA samples from consumers. A humorous video reveals how the results impact different families when they discover whether they are a "hater" or a "lover."
Marmite is one of those polarizing products that people either enjoy as a rich and salty condiment that tastes great with melted butter on freshly toasted bread, or detest as acrid sludge that triggers crippling gag reflexes. For people who don’t trust their taste buds, Marmite offers an app that reads facial expressions and lets people share their reactions with friends.
The web app is a lighthearted way to remind people of the brand or to encourage them to try it for the first time. Just as people challenge each other to do unpleasant things like dumping ice water over their heads to raise awareness for an illness, they may also be willing to goad friends and family into trying out Marmite. If the challenge goes viral, that’s even better for awareness.
The effort is the latest example of how the use of facial recognition technology is becoming widely accepted by consumers and marketers. Alibaba is testing the technology as a way to let people pay for a purchase, incluidng at KFC restaurants in China. Apple is reportedly working to add the technology for unlocking phones and payments on its phones. And a number of beauty brands, including Sephora and L'Oreal, have already been ramping up their use of the technology for several years.
The brand wants to urge British consumers to revisit the product, which saw a 61% boost in sales last year after consumers rushed to buy products following the threat of price hikes. Unilever wanted to raise the prices of its products after U.K. voters approved a measure to withdraw from the European Union. The company claimed the higher prices were necessary to offset a drop in the value of the British pound after the Brexit vote. Grocery chain Tesco responded by temporarily removing Unilever brands from its website. The two companies eventually resolved the dispute.