Why empathy is important now more than ever.

Joanne Suh
Senior VP Client Services and Senior Insight Strategist

Successful brands know they need to forge a personal relationship with their customers. Having a deep connection to customers is how a brand stays relevant and meaningful. With all the immediate challenges facing people during this pandemic, a brand’s relationship with its customers may have weakened a bit due to a plethora of circumstances from financial strain to social distancing.

People are experiencing a range and disparity of emotions, and these feelings can be very different depending on each individual’s situation, for example:

  • Front-line workers out there every day trying to keep people healthy and fed
  • Parents who suddenly had to play the role of teacher
  • Parents working from home with babies and toddlers demanding attention
  • Seniors who felt isolated from their loved ones

 

For marketers, now is the time to go beyond data into the emotional stories that accompany attitudes and behaviors. And getting at those emotional stories are at the root of why empathy is an important component of customer insights.”

 

If an emotional study was conducted among Americans, we’d find people likely swing from thankful to angry and worried to sympathetic on a daily basis, depending on their unique situation. It’s almost impossible to sum up each individual’s feelings into a neat statistical mean or average. For marketers, now is the time to go beyond data into the emotional stories that accompany attitudes and behaviors. And getting at those emotional stories are at the root of why empathy is an important component of customer insights.

 

Empathy means staying connected on a deeper level.

 

The word “empathy” may seem like a soft phrase to use in the world of marketing and customer insights, where data drives much of the decision-making. I like to think of being empathetic as being an “empathetic listener.” People feel far more comfortable opening up when you’ve given them a sense that you care about their individual circumstances and are willing to look at their life through their eyes, not your own. Allowing people to share their relevant circumstances and then acknowledging their situation gives them a sense of safety. Most importantly for marketers, this empathetic listening gives customers the permission to open up and share on a deeper level. This more intimate level of sharing is essential and necessary to uncover deep human insights.

 


 

Listen as Joanne Suh explains why insights from empathetic, in-context learning can be transformational.

 


 

Here are some examples of how brands have stayed connected on a deeper level with customers both pre-COVID and during it:

Infant brand messaging to pregnant mothers:
An infant product brand spoke to pregnant women about their feelings in the moment they discovered they were pregnant, and then contrasted those to how they felt when COVID hit. Understanding this evolution through empathetic listening allowed the brand to uncover the fear they needed to address and the reassurance they had the opportunity to provide these new moms during this time.

Innovations for chronic disease patients:
In a study for a personal health manufacturer, we gave each patient a metaphorical tool using simple imagery that allowed them to represent their emotions in a tangible way. This gesture of empathy created an open environment where they felt safe to share their thoughts and feelings. These insights informed innovations in products, service, training, and in-store messaging with channel partners.

Sleep aid brand defining target audience:
A man in this study was experiencing job loss due to COVID, had recently gone through a divorce, and was was living with friends. He responded negatively towards many of the sleep aid concepts, which at face value he concluded were weak concepts. However, using empathetic listening, the researcher was able to determine that nothing was “strong enough” to help him with his sleepless nights. This helped the brand more deeply understand and define their design target.

 

Empathetic listening gives customers the permission to open up and share on a deeper level. This more intimate level of sharing is essential and necessary to uncover deep human insights.”

Want to use more empathetic listening with your customers during COVID?

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