“A business that invests in empathy devotes itself to understanding the emotional needs and motivations of its customers, and aligns itself to meet them”.
The above lines are that of Mark Ingwer - A business psychologist and the author of the book Empathetic Marketing: How to Satisfy The 6 Core Emotional Needs of Your Customers.
Call it “Walking in customers’ shoes”; “Human-centered Marketing”; listening with ‘The third ear’ or ‘Empathic Marketing’; the core philosophy here, as Mark describes is – being able to see beyond what people say and to discover and understand customers’ emotional needs or the hidden meaning behind their conscious thoughts.
Empathy now seems to be one of the prerequisites for ‘brand credibility’, along with authenticity, authority, quality and reliability.
Unlike other traits, this one however, requires you to not just understand your customers or audiences; but to feel their dormant emotions and connect with them on a deep and intuitive level.
It’s a unique blend of generosity, understanding, problem-solving and kindness that goes beyond the general ‘profit-making’ principle of a business. It’s about going that ‘extra mile’ to establish an emotional connection with the customers by showering them with huge value which they never expected.
Here are some brilliant examples of brands making positive impact via Empathic Marketing and connecting with their customers on a whole new level:
1. Delta Airlines – Pizza Party!
What can an airline do when hundreds of its flights get delayed with passengers stranded at the runways?
That’s exactly what happened to hundreds of passengers aboard Delta Airlines who had to wait it out at the runways at Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Ohio and Kentucky due to extreme weather in Atlanta.
The airlines was quick to think on its feet and to everyone’s surprise ordered hundreds of pizzas to be handed out to the passengers, who were happy to munch on the cheesy delights while waiting for the storm to end.
A situation which could have taken an ugly turn in the social media channels, surprisingly took a turn for the better with Delta Airlines going above and beyond customer service. The airline not only felt the plight of the stranded passengers; but also showed its empathic side by truly caring for its customers!
2. Airbnb’s Stance Against Discrimination
Airbnb with its business spawning across the globe is known for its culture of hospitality, ‘sharing’, ‘tolerance’ and cross-cultural harmony.
However, it was pulled into a big controversy when a customer accused the company and an Airbnb host of racial discrimination. The guest who was refused a booking by the host was allowed accommodation when he used a fake profile of a white man.
Airbnb also issued a letter to all of its users asking them to agree to a new ‘community commitment’ and not adhering to it will result in the loss of their account. The email which was essentially a ‘non-discrimination policy’ which read: You commit to treat everyone — regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias.
By immediately taking a serious stance on discrimination, Airbnb strengthened its core values of cultural tolerance, all the while establishing itself as an empathetic brand!
3. JetBlue Flight Etiquette Videos
JetBlue, a brand known for its excellent customer service and a good dose of humour came up with a series of funny PSAs in the name of ‘Flight Etiquette’ to relate to the woes their passengers encounter while traveling; such as being seated next to chatty seatmates, or being accompanied by travelers who get a too comfortable in transit lounges.
The video above with the title ‘How not to get too comfortable’ tickles your funny bones to show how some travelers can get really stretch the limit to make themselves comfortable…
As an empathic brand, JetBlue shows how such instances or insensitive human behaviour can create havoc to our flying experiences; and it also attempts to discourage such practices by raising awareness amongst the masses.
4. DOVE – Real Beauty Sketches
Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign in 2013 empathised with it audience in the truest sense.
In the video campaign, the brand conducts an experiment to unearth how both women and men tend to struggle with low self-esteem; but then it also demonstrates how the reality is much to their liking and ultimately boosts their self-belief.
The video involves woman describing her facial features to a sketch artist who is behind the screen. Then other person is asked to describe the same woman, while the artist sketches another portrait.
When presented with both the results, the portrait based on how others saw the woman came out as much younger, beautiful and likeable than the one described by herself.
The campaign with its tagline ‘You’re more beautiful than you think’ evoked quite an emotional response from the viewers taking it to more than 8 million views, without even once mentioning or showing any of its products.
5. American Greetings – World’s Toughest Job
American Greetings, a greeting card company, set out on its campaign by creating the ‘World’s toughest job’ and interviewed number of eager applicants online.
The twist here was that the job indeed sounded like the worst job in the world; where you were required to work 24/7; there were no breaks, no holidays; and no salary – Just when the participants were pretty miffed off and started calling it an ‘inhumane’ and a ‘crazy’ job; the interviewer says there are billions currently doing this job…
When the interviewer finally reveals that the job he was referring to was that of ‘motherhood’; it strikes an emotional chord with the participants and has most definitely touched the hearts of over 27 million people (views) – as it reminds all of us how our mothers put their life on the line and sacrifice everything to make us the person we are today.
American Greetings struck a major empathic nerve of the audience with this campaign, and validated their idea to send greetings and ‘thank you’ cards to loved ones, as a noble one!
For any brand that aspires to dwell in the heart and minds of its customers and audience, Empathic Marketing should be ingrained into its business strategies. Though, ‘empathy’ may give you an improved bottom line in the long run; brands actually need to first think through their hearts and aspire to ‘give’ before any ‘profit motives’ thwarts the positive outcome!
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