If you are in marketing, then you probably have not been able to escape the term “empathy” especially as of late. Well known marketers and industry leaders are talking about it more and the increased need for brand empathy.
While traditional marketing practices are still worth pursuing, the demands from audiences have shifted. Naturally, this means more work for your organization to make an emotional connection instead of just pushing for the immediate sale.
Seemingly, there are more ways to connect with your audiences than ever before, so marketing must be easier right? Unfortunately no! Creating that connection of trust is even more challenging, audiences expect more from brands and their marketing materials.
So what is empathy in marketing? How do we define brand empathy? And what can your organization and marketing team do?
Brand Empathy Defined
Empathy is simply the ability to understand the emotions of others and be able to connect with those feelings at the same time. “I feel ya” is the idiomatic definition of empathy, when you experience what someone else is subjectively feeling but for yourself in order to better understand their situation.
And by utilizing brand empathy, it allows you to better understand your target audience on their terms, thus creating relevant information and offers that will actually resonate with them.
But wait, isn’t that what buyer personas help with? We are already doing that at our organization and marketing! Well you are partially correct with that thought.
The problem with most buyer personas is it’s heavily influenced by data. While that is important to look at, most marketers focus on the overall demographics, purchase phases, behaviors, and other generalized data.
The marketing content can connect with some audiences on that alone, but many times that material is not connecting with their audiences needs or offering solutions to their challenges.
According to Forrester’s research, “65% of B2B consumers say they already get too much material from marketers, and almost as many think what they’re getting is useless.” Oof.
What is becoming more apparent is marketing is often overlooking the emotional connection. Instead, marketers are putting out material (content, ads, etc) that is focused on the conversion first, instead of brand empathy.
So How Do You Approach Brand Empathy in Marketing?
In the early stages of digital marketing, most learned (and were taught) that you need to think like your audience. But, you end up focused on only giving value to your brand, driving leads and sales.
Certainly part of the marketing job, but you can’t achieve that by blindly throwing waves of marketing material at people who don’t feel your brand has any clue about their needs.
Your potential buyers and current customers are tuning out generalized marketing that does not resonate with them. There are more content choices with empathic marketing, and brands that build an emotional connection are better suited for your target audiences as it actually suits their needs.
That means not only should marketers build buyer personas to create a profile, but they must also make the effort to position themselves as a potential buyer.
It is marketers jobs to now become the customer — to better align with their interests, needs, and motivations. And simple marketing tweaks in copy, content, and offerings can make quite the impact.
Tips To Building Brand Empathy
At this point, you are aware that brand empathy helps build trust between your company and potential customers.
Instead of buyers ignoring your marketing or looking at it passively, they become more engaging because you authenticate an emotional connection with their interests and pain points.
But how do you turn audiences into loyal brand advocates and people who care about your brand, product, or services?
Learn The Needs of Your Audiences
Too often, it’s easy to complete a blog post, guide, or ad and fixate on the targeted audience in order to get conversions or a sale. However, how much time did you spend beforehand understanding the NEEDS of your demographic?
You certainly will have a good understanding of their overall profile based on your buyer’s journey. But how much do you know about what they really need that your marketing can satisfy?
Become the customer, think like them, and learn about what they would be looking for before launching any marketing campaign. What triggers them to engage, convert, or engage with what they see from your brand?
Empathy Listening Also Matters
Surveying data and gathering feedback from your current customers provides some good insights. But is it enough to fully develop brand empathy in your marketing? Most likely it’s not.
This is where it is important to align with members of the organization that work incredible close to customers and prospects. Understanding what motivates them, hearing their reactions and challenges, and what interests them can drive future marketing decisions that create better alignment.
This could mean:
- Marketing teams joining the sales team for prospect calls or in-person meetings to observe, listen, and ask questions.
- Listen in on sales or customer service teams calls with customers to get direct insights into their needs and motivations.
- Develop empathy maps that coincide with your buyer’s journey. These are simple maps that help answer questions on the emotions of your customers.
Be Human And Use Digital Storytelling
I’m sure you’ve heard this before that marketing needs to be more human. But what does that mean exactly?
Well, it means your brand and any marketing content (ads, blogs, social media posts, emails, guides, etc.) should be perceived like an actual human conversation.
It means removing the robotic sales copy or the transactional intent from any campaigns. Naturally, you’ll want conversations and sales, but does your marketing sound like you genuinely want to help or that you just want something from the viewer?
Instead, marketing should focus more on digital storytelling, which also impacts brand empathy. It helps create a narrative around what your brand represents and helps your audiences connect with your marketing.
Impact > Features
In B2B, it’s easy to fixate on showcasing the features, specifications, processes, integrations — and all that fun stuff in marketing. While including functionality and features is important, too often it’s the only go-to thing about any marketing campaign.
For many audiences, that is somewhat intriguing — but how does it relate to their challenges? Empathy aside for a moment, focusing exclusively on features rarely makes a value proposition either. But how do your users connect with the features and specifications? Without empathetic considerations and trust in the user’s experience, there is no context to your product offerings.
Put differently, marketing the objective features of a product or service mean nothing if the user’s subjective experience is relegated or cast aside altogether. Empathy puts the user’s subjectivity front and center, and we all benefit as a result.
So how can your marketing impact your audience in a positive way that does not come off as just a sales pitch? Certainly, at different stages of the buyer’s journey your prospects will want info on pricing, features, integrations, services, and all that good stuff.
But in general, make it less of the focal point and hone in on how your marketing can be relatable, tell a story, and solve your particular audiences challenges. Prioritizing brand empathy performs a two-fold boon of both validating your product and authenticating your brand — a simple way to do this is by simply showcasing existing customers and clients upfront.
Look at competitors of yours who don’t spotlight their users — they are un-relatable as a result and even worse can look like scams (i.e. is this a real service if I see no testimonials)?
No matter how nice a website or on-trend their product features might look, if there is no empathy in their marketing, it’s hard to tell what’s real.
Slow Down the Marketing Machine
For brand empathy to work, you need to give audiences more useful information, not randomly putting more out there hoping for something to connect.
Attention spans are waning and digital noise is growing, without a more thorough strategy — all you are doing is piling up and further amplifying the unhelpful noise.
Fighting for attention is key with all the channels and competition, but just publishing more content or launching more ads without a purpose does little for your brand or empathy.
So what I mean to say here is that your marketing machine should be running, but with more purpose.
- How does this help your audience?
- Does it speak to their needs or interests?
- Is the topic worth sharing and promoting because it’s helpful or because you hope it just gives you content info to market them further?
Purposeful marketing campaigns are winning and driving brand empathy.