How Marmite is analysing your face to personalise a definitive lover or hater status

As part of Marmite’s Gene Project, the divisive Unilever condiment has been working with AnalogFolk to develop a bespoke web app named TasteFace. The Drum spoke to the agency’s director of technology services to find out how the tech is accurately revealing the taste habits of Marmite munchers.

The digital experience uses Microsoft’s Emotion API facial recognition technology to tell if the Marmite eater pulls a face of enjoyment or disgust while ingesting the yeast-based paste. Not only does it categorise the user as a lover or a hater, it reveals the percentage of the emotion, with the biggest fans rated 100% and those on the verge of vomiting at 0%.

At the end of the experience, an edited video of the user’s taste test is converted into a gif that can be shared with a variety of relevant lover or hater overlays.

Miguel Alvarez, director of technology services at AnalogFolk, explained how the technology works.

“It works by recording a very short video when the person is trying out Marmite through the camera,” he said. “We chop that video into pieces that we analyse and look for the expressions that happen at very key moment through the journey when you’re trying something out. By analysing the facial expression of eight key areas, we combine those values to give an overall view of whether you liked it or disliked it.”

It wasn’t a straightforward process, however. To ensure maximum pick up across desktop, Android and iOS, AnalogFolk wanted to produce an experience through a web app, rather than a downloadable version.

“We knew that it’s very easy to access a camera and complete the whole journey in Android, but it’s less supported on iOS and even less on desktop,” explained Alvarez. “But we wanted to stick to [the web app idea] to make it accessible, so we had to develop the application three times. We also wanted to make sure it was as accurate as possible, so we tested the algorithm in different types of light with anyone that we could.”

The brand hopes TasteFace, which can also produce the amalgamated love/hate result for a group of people, will encourage consumers who previously labeled themselves as haters to reconsider the spread.

Philippa Atkinson, brand manager for Marmite at Unilever, said: “With TasteFace we are encouraging the British public to try Marmite, butter their toast and discover their fate - are they lovers or haters? We know that some people have written off Marmite in the past, so innovations like TasteFace, while fun, also serve a real purpose, by encouraging people to give it a go.”

The web app forms part of Marmite’s new integrated campaign, the Marmite Gene Project. Spanning TV, social, PR and digital, the brand has partnered with scientists to show how some people are genetically destined to enjoy its taste.

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Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

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