It’s All About Empathy


Consumer empathy requires more than understanding your consumers; it’s about connecting with them.

“It used to be that a successful brand conveyed authority and reliability (think General Motors or IBM); now it’s all about empathy,” Paul O’Connor, Ziba Executive Creative Director, wrote in Fast Company. “Technology used to attract us through specs and features; today it has to enable an experience. Even our perception of what makes a product valuable has shifted, to the point where a brand-new sound system or a dress like the one on the magazine cover is actually less desirable than something with a strong story attached.”

What is Empathy Exactly?

If you have empathy for someone, you have the ability to share their emotions. It isn’t just about understanding emotions, but sharing them – to feel your customers’ emotions as they are feeling them. Needless to say, empathy goes far beyond mere understanding, to the point of a viscerally intimate connection between marketers and consumers. Using empathy in your consumer communications is a complex process that requires you to step outside your own perceptions and opinions.

Learn more about creating an empathetic voice for your brand.

If you have consumer empathy, you are able to understand how your customer feels – and how they want to feel – even before they do. You know what products they need, what they want to say about themselves and the issues they struggle with on a daily basis.

But beyond knowing, you have an emotional attachment to your consumer. Your heart aches when you listen to them in focus groups describing their daily challenges and you understand what they mean in their answers to the survey research you conduct. As a result, you are better able to develop solutions that meet and exceed their needs, and better able to communicate with them about those solutions because of your empathy.

Brands That Empathize

Let’s look at a few examples of some brands that “get” consumer empathy:

World’s Toughest Job: American Greetings

The advertisement for the “World’s Toughest Job” takes viewers and participants on an emotional journey. It starts out by describing what sounds like the worst job: working 24/7, no breaks and no pay are amongst the worst of the logistics for the job. However, once the interviewer reveals he was describing motherhood, the whole tone changes. Participants start to get emotional and so did viewers because they’re being reminded of something they often forget: mothers sacrifice an incredible amount for their children, and they should be thanked for all they’ve done.

The Power of Together-Copilots: Petco

Anyone who has a pet can immediately relate to this ad. It tugs on your heart strings. You know the bond that has grown between you and your pet, and you wouldn’t trade it for anything. They are your companion, your cohabitant, your copilot. There is an unbreakable connection and Petco gets it.

Brand New Baby: Google

Having your first baby is scary and Google understands that. Google’s “Brand New Baby” advertisement tells a story of a couple expecting their first baby, and the fears, questions and hope that comes with the experience. You get to follow the events in a single day leading up to the trip to the hospital. Google will help you with breathing techniques for labor, breathing techniques for anxiety, baby names, new houses and a cab to get you from where ever you happen to be to the hospital. Google is there to hold your hand through the process.

Connecting with Consumers

American Greetings, Petco and Google all demonstrate consumer empathy: they understand your struggles, they tell stories that demonstrate their respect and empathy for you and they have solutions. Going beyond mere understanding to empathy – truly sharing your consumers’ feelings – forges a uniquely strong bond between brands and consumers.

Hmmm… looks like empathy really is the new black! It’s time to start wear it proudly. Need help getting there? Insights in Marketing’s experienced consultants can guide you through the best research approach and uncover the meaning behind the numbers.