With all the negative news we see on a regular basis, is it any wonder that consumers become almost immune to company messages? We’ve seen companies take a stand on issues, with polarized results—some people support the stance, while others boycott against it. It seems nearly impossible to create a marketing campaign that doesn’t fall short of expectations or open itself to searing criticism.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Consumers are becoming more vocal about what they expect from businesses—and if you listen, you can honor those wishes while building a reliable, trustworthy company image.
But the question is: How do you do it?
The Answer: Empathy.
Empathy is a “soft” trait; one that doesn’t appear to lend itself very well to marketing. After all, how do you quantify such an obscure feeling? If you push too hard, it comes off as disingenuous (Think of the Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner).
If you don’t push hard enough, it comes off as strange and unfeeling. Where is that “sweet spot” where you can broadcast an empathetic company image while remaining authentic and focused on your goals?
What Does Your Audience Value?
If you market to a general population, most Americans will say that they value hard work, honesty, and grit. Whether young or old, people respond to these traits that make brands seem less sterile and corporate, instead taking on more “human” qualities.
If you market to a younger, more environmentally-friendly demographic, then you will want to focus on communicating your empathy for their fight against climate change and weakening of environmental protections. You might present cruelty-free products, vegetarian/vegan options, or portions of proceeds donated to charity.
If you market to a focused, high-energy/high-achieving group, then you’ll want to empathize with their hard work, sacrifices, and rewards of everything they’ve worked so hard for. For example, focus on time well spent with family after a rewarding stretch at work; vacations to provide self-care after grueling work hours, or ways to honor difficult choices such as time away from home.
Ethics, Values, and Morals
There is a difference between being ethical, value-oriented, and moral. Morals tend to be formed individually, and they differ depending on someone’s background, religion, and socioeconomic beliefs. They are systems of belief taught to aid in deciding whether something is “good” or “bad.”
Values tend to be the basis for morals—think of what you find valuable. Maybe you value honesty. Your morals will be formed based on this. You will find dishonest people immoral, for example.
Finally, ethics are how you apply these beliefs. If a company practices good professional ethics, then that company is honest with consumers and employees.
You need to decide your morals, values, and ethics as a business owner. It might not seem important, but to project empathy and a true connection with your audience, you need to spend some time thinking about this.
Humanize Customers and Employees
It’s one thing to endlessly bleat about customers always “being right.” But it’s another to actually listen to their concerns and do your best to meet their needs. It is also necessary to treat your employees with the same respect. Companies that mistreat employees are viewed as cruel and distant. Companies that continually shirk their customers’ wishes are viewed as untrustworthy and thieving.
Therefore, it’s important that you treat everyone with respect, courtesy, and consideration. Whether your employees are bringing grievances to your office door or your customers are complaining on social media, you need to address their concerns with grace and professionalism. You can’t market yourself as being an “empathetic” company if you’re only empathetic when it suits you best.
What do you think? Are there other ways you choose to show empathy? Are there other approaches you prefer to take when connecting with an audience? Let us know!