How To Successfully Use Empathy In Marketing

Tips For Empathy-Based Marketing In A Crisis

How To Successfully Use Empathy In Marketing

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”—Ian Maclaren

Never before has a saying been so pertinent. Since the beginning of 2020, people around the globe have struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses have had to close their doors due to strict lockdowns, and the financial, mental, and emotional toll on people from all walks of life has been immense.

As time goes on, however, more and more businesses are starting to pick themselves up again and trying to adapt to the changed economic climate.

Now, more than ever before, innovation is non-negotiable when it comes to marketing. Financial profits are still a top priority for industries, but consumers as a group are becoming more discerning when it comes to who they support when they spend. Customers are no longer happy to pour money into companies that have no understanding of who they are and what they need.

The result: an empathy-based or empathic approach designed to appeal to consumers’ emotional needs in this time of (emotional) crisis.

Empathy-Based Marketing: The Basics

Empathy is the capability to understand another’s emotions, to acknowledge them and imagine how you would feel yourself when faced with a particular feeling or situation. Most of us have experienced empathy in one form or another. It’s as simple as watching a friend stub their toe and “reliving” that same experience; you understand that it’s physically painful, frustrating, and can imagine those unpleasant feelings all too easily.

Marketing has involved empathy for decades. The very aim of marketing—to reach potential consumers and keep their attention—relies heavily on the ability of a business to understand what makes its target market tick. Consumers are not interested in companies that don’t even try to relate to them. Empathy-based marketing serves the same purpose as all marketing, but goes one step further; to connect to potential buyers in an authentic and emotional way.

CEOs across the world already value and practice empathy-based marketing. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, advised people to ignore the suggestion to “keep your empathy out of your career”. Don Peppers, one of the founders of management consultancy, Peppers and Rogers Group, emphasized the importance of authentic engagement, describing empathy as “the ultimate form of customer insight”.

The practice of empathy-based marketing involves innovative strategies that help companies to see things from their customers’ point of view. Some businesses take a very literal approach. One example of this is the Westin Hotel in Portland, which gets employees to visit the hotel as a guest, allowing them to see the workings of the establishment from the other side of the metaphorical fence.

A Customer-Centric Approach

One way of describing empathy-based marketing is as a customer-centric mindset. Businesses need to make money, but the underlying idea is that by focusing on your customers’ experiences, you can understand them better and provide them with what they want.

Giving discounts on products, for example, is one of the most common ways of appealing to consumers who want to save money. Applying this haphazardly, however, doesn’t get you far. To succeed, companies need to pair traditional marketing processes and strategies with the willingness to relate to their target market, not just their spending power.

From Ads To Empathy

We now know what empathy-based marketing is, but how do companies go about implementing it?

The Westin Hotel’s idea of getting employees to check into the establishment as guests is one practical example. But there are many ways of using this particular approach to promote your business.

Empathy-Based Marketing In Practice

The first steps are relatively simple. Pinpoint your target market, describe your archetypal customer, and start getting to grips with their ways of thinking. This can be done through market research that is aimed at identifying your potential customers’ needs, such as surveys, and asking for feedback on a regular basis.

Wants And Needs – One Example

The vast majority of consumers prefer affordable products. But each brand appeals to different people for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with low prices. Nike symbolizes the thrill of competitive athletics with their Just Do It trademark. The American brand’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign is an excellent example of using empathy to captivate consumers. The message it conveys is purely inspirational—with Nike, you can achieve your dreams.

This marketing campaign works because it uses emotion to reach consumers. Most of us have, at some point, dreamed of fame and success, whether on a soccer pitch or in front of a camera. Find Your Greatness taps into that longing and it’s a hugely powerful way of relating to customers and making them feel understood.

What Comes Next?

It’s fairly straightforward to identify your target market and learn about their wants and needs. But using that information to formulate a successful marketing campaign takes imagination.

Throughout an empathy-based marketing campaign, there must be contact between businesses and customers. Getting feedback is essential, not only before you start promoting your product or service, but at every step of the way. Empathy in marketing is meant to make consumers feel heard. Failing to listen to their responses sends the message that it was always about taking their money instead of fulfilling their needs.

An Empathic Campaign

Successfully implementing empathy-based marketing is nuanced and requires a degree of sensitivity that most people don’t associate with the world of advertising. Many consumers have become used to the underlying sense that whatever they’re buying simply benefits the business and there’s no emotional connection involved. But when done well, empathic marketing allows consumers to feel that their needs are heard and will be met too. It’s not just about the money changing hands.

Moving from defining your customer to a comprehensive marketing campaign can involve many different steps and is unique to each individual business. The bottom line, however, is the need for authenticity and transparent communication. Companies need to take feedback on board and see their target market as more than an ATM.

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