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6 Ways Brands Can Use Empathy in Content Marketing



Content resonates with your audience when it comes from a place of empathy. That is when your audience knows you are speaking to them at a personal level. Empathy starts when you have a deep understanding of your audience including their hopes, desires, struggles and challenges.

Here are six ways you can create empathic stories, complete with examples from who got it right. Your story moves beyond the intersection of person and brand when you stop considering your customer as a data point.

6 Ways Brands Can Use Empathy in Content Marketing

1# – show them you care

Empathy isn’t talking about the emotions and perspectives of others but more about understanding and considering them. For a brand, this means understanding the challenges and practice reflecting that understanding in all your interactions with the customers.

Alibaba for its first global-facing ad campaign for 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics embracing is the spirit of a small underdog. The commercial intended for the international audience makes no mention of China or e-commerce. Alibaba instead showcases the company’s underdog spirit, under the slogan “To the greatness of small.”

One of the spots created for the campaign showcases the story of Australian rower Bobby Pearce who stopped mid-race to let ducks cross his lane. The commercial ends with the slogan, “Alibaba empowers small businesses and young people around the world.”

Considering Alibaba works with millions of small businesses worldwide the content empathises with their struggles and showcases their spirit using the stories.

2# – empathy as a core value

Thai Life Insurance has long been the undisputed leader in the local life insurance market, however with the market changing the brand had to change its mission and philosophy. Thai Life had to showcase that it is people business which gives priority to the stakeholders, both direct and indirect.

The commercials from Thai Life highlights their beliefs and values – Selling insurance is about selling trust, care, empathy and helpfulness. This positions the brand as close friend that is prepared to stand alongside and do everything possible to make every stage in the life of their customers secure.

In a market where the product or service itself is commoditized showcasing your core values helps in building the brand. In India, the Tata brand has been consistent with its ideals and core values. The Tata maxim ‘Leadership with Trust’ is part of the company’s DNA.

3# – It is our business

Brands can practice empathy by acting responsibly in their central areas of business.

Dick’s Sporting Goods announced plans to stop selling assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines last week. The brand also changed the minimum age limit to purchase a firearm to 21. The change was in response to the school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla. Dick’s had to lead on this issue because it’s relevant to their core business as they sell guns.

Dick’s Sporting Goods saw a particularly big boost in word of mouth after making its announcement on Feb 28, 2018, according to YouGov BrandIndex, a public perception research firm. Walmart also followed the move by revising the age limit to buy a gun or ammunition.

4# – know your audience

‘Like A Girl’ campaign from Procter & Gamble’s Always feminine care brand showcases the biases young girls encounter on daily bases. The commercial flips this around 180 degrees in a confessional-style display of profound understanding of the human condition.

What does it mean to “run like a girl?” a little girl is asked at the end of the spot. “It means to run fast as you can,” she says.

The campaign draws its inspiration from a universal issue that so many women deal with, yet few ever publicly discuss: as they confront puberty, many girls experience a huge dip in self-confidence. The brand leverage this deep consumer insight and used it as a medium to showcase how we make a difference.

5# – Emotional Intelligence to Showcase Vulnerability 

Showing vulnerability develops empathy for people, and brands are no different. Brands need to acknowledge their challenges and problems in a way that demonstrates that they are indeed trying.  This helps in building empathy, in case the brand is unsuccessful customers are more prepared to accept failure.

Take the above tweet for example. Elon Musk appropriately sets the expectation for the audience that one its rocket boosters may not make it back to Earth. The narrative admits things could go wrong but embraces vulnerability in a way that highlights the progress made.

6# – Don’t practice empathy without fulfilling basic needs 

Empathy is a higher order emotion in the hierarchy of human experiences. A brand has to meet the survival needs first before it develops empathy. Customers are inherently driven to know whether they are okay and do they fit in. When a customers know they are okay and they fit in, then your brand can develop empathy by listening to their needs.


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