Why Empathy is the Marketing Buzzword You Need to Pay Attention To

Empathy is batted around a lot in the marketing world but this is one trend you need to pay attention to for your next campaign.

Marketers are used to trends coming and going but empathy isn't one of them. Emotion-led marketing campaigns are something that have been around for a number of years and aren't going anywhere any time soon. 

These nearly always focus on some element of empathy; whether empathizing with your consumers or encouraging them to empathize with someone - or something - else. But why is this emotion so effective in advertising and why do marketers need to keep paying attention to it?

The buying process is personal

Empathy - the ability to understand the feelings of another - is a key part of the buying process. American author Seth Godin is quoted as saying "people don't buy goods or services, they buy stories, relations and magic" and, while you might not want to start advertising the elixir of life, there's an element of truth to it.

Neuroscientist and Ted speaker Antonio Damasio has spoken in great detail about the role emotions play in our purchasing decisions. His study found that people who were unable to feel emotion had trouble making decisions and the most personal emotions - love, envy, pride and vanity - had the biggest impact on our choices.

It builds a relationship between you and consumers

Just like a friend comforting you after a breakup or a bad day at the office, empathetic campaigns allow you to build a relationship between you and your audience. As consumers become more focused on the connection they feel with brands, this could be the difference between success and failure for marketers.

This is shown effectively by Lush's 'How It's Made' series that invited customers to go behind the scenes in the production of a variety of its handmade products. By doing this, the brand has not only shown a good understanding of who its audience is and what they're motivated by, but also highlights the human side of manufacturing. Lush customers, who are driven by a desire to purchase ethical, organic and cruelty-free products, are likely to respond positively to this campaign because it puts them center stage. It also shows them that Lush empathizes with their concerns about how beauty products are made.

Emotional connections last longer

Emotionally-connected customers have a better lifetime value for brands too. They spend more, come back more often and are likely to advocate your business to others. To make this work, marketing activities need to focus on cultivating a mutual trust and respect between your company and its audience. The brands that have the best success with customers develop this initial relationship over a period of time, tapping into the history, values or traditions of the company.

Delivering the same message over months or years will give customers consistency, which instills trust and advocacy for your brand.

Empathy is open to all

Unlike many other marketing trends, it's not just something that certain brands can do. Of course, companies like Disney or charities like Mind may have an easier link to emotions but businesses in all industries can see the benefits of using empathy in campaigns.

Procter and Gamble published a 'Thank You Mom' advert that tapped into an event - the London 2012 Olympics - and an emotion - parents make sacrifices every day for their children. This is an effective example of how brands who may not fit naturally into emotional marketing can integrate empathy into their campaigns if the strategy is clear enough.

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