How well does your brand display empathy? Could understanding this powerful relationship builder and its influencers impact the results of your next marketing campaign? Let’s consult new trends in the research.
First, let’s take a look at defining what empathy is.
Within our nature, there is a deep-rooted instinct to feel for others, a longing to crawl into their skin and understand the way that they view the world. It’s why movie characters enrapture us—we empathize with their suffering and their happiness, the decision-making that has led them down the path that they’re on. Empathy is what pulls us to other people and it is the foundation of how we understand different perspectives and situations. In marketing, empathy empowers consumers to connect deeper with your brand, thus building trust and deepening the relationship.
How has the Internet and social media impacted our ability to empathize?
Numerous studies, such as this study discussed in Scientific America, have reported that human empathy seems to be on a decline. Yet, our desire to feel understood and connected to the people around us has increased. How does this make sense? This decline in empathy is related to the social context of our world today: how we live and interact with one another. The notion that technology simultaneously connects us but separates us has been written about time and time again. We may have easy, virtual access to connect with our friends and family, but that just means that we have equal opportunity to avoid or ignore them. The Internet has given rise to a strange form of isolation where we no longer have in-person conversations or face our troubles directly. As a result, when people are upset, they can passive-aggressively Tweet about it, post a photo to Instagram with an ambiguous caption that alludes to their feelings or send a text instead of setting up a face-to-face meeting. All three of these instances demonstrate a decline in internalizing empathy.
What do these empathy trends mean for marketing?
As marketers, we must adapt and respond to the needs of our audience. Brands that can compel consumers and give them what they need while showing them their value, are brands that will succeed in the marketplace. Unlike other advertising buzzwords, empathy is not something that a brand can fake. With the abundance of competitive brands these days, consumers are more interested in supporting brands that they empathize with. What values do you possess? What things do you stand for? How do you take action in times of need? These are all questions that pivot consumers into choosing your brand over another. It is important to approach connecting with your audience on an emotional level and to respond to their questions, troubles, hopes and desires in a way that sparks their minds and hearts. This approach can mean using your brand platform to address critical issues or taking thoughtful action when interacting with your consumers.
How can brands display empathy?
Take Southwest Airlines for example, which has crafted a culture of care and humanity among cold, corporate competitors. A heart is their symbol, showcasing the thoughtful service that they pride themselves in possessing. They already have an established image and audience, but a viral story about how they went above and beyond to reroute a woman whose son fell into a coma further cemented Southwest’s dedication to its values. The kindness that Southwest showed that passenger deeply resonated with people because they empathized with her; she was an everyday mom who was getting heart-breaking news about her child. It could have happened to anyone—how would you feel in that situation? Southwest seized the moment to show their passengers that they understood and cared about helping them. Consumers who had never considered flying Southwest before, suddenly changed their minds.
It’s amazing how deeply you can influence people when you appeal to their emotions. Proctor and Gamble’s “The Talk” is another powerful example of leading with empathy. The commercial is thought provoking and tackles the discussion of race and privilege. It has opened the door for critical dialogue between brands and consumers. By touching people’s hearts with a strong and relevant message, Proctor and Gamble showed courage. The brand brought to light a heavy issue in an impacting manner and gained many new supporters as a result.
On the contrary, brands that display a lack of empathy with consumers are misdirected. If your audience does not understand or connect with your brand, they will not trust you let alone advocate for you. It’s one thing to develop a brand—it’s another thing to maintain it. Empathy is the key to longevity. This applies to B2C as well as B2B models.
Finding opportunities to show that your brand understands consumer needs and, therefore, is an empathetic brand, is the most effective way to build a connection with your audience. Your content messaging and the overall marketing tone of your brand should express value to consumers and help them to understand why they should invest in your brand. Listening to what your audience is talking about, taking their feedback to heart and responding with thoughtfulness will allow for more meaningful connections to open up. According to a study from Havas, meaningful brands outperform the stock market by 206%, therefore, demonstrating why it is so important to consistently monitor and stay connected with your brand’s audience.
The bottom line:
Brands that display empathy not only gain respectability from their audience, but they display relevance, and relevance builds trust. Therefore, in your next campaign, consider these two main questions: What is going on in the world of my audience? And how can my brand connect with them in providing solutions and relevance?
Our Mellonaid team can tell you right now, that as an agency, possessing empathy is one of our most integral traits. We operate on the basis of humility and with a nature of understanding. Our empathy makes us stronger and enables us to craft solutions, which build brand advocacy. Creating these opportunities to make a difference through our work has always been the core of who we are, and it’s something that we recommend other brands embrace.