Marketing August 1, 2016 Last updated July 31st, 2016 1,714 Reads share

Empathy Marketing as a Distinctive Approach and the Stumbling Blocks

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Brands feel upset when the marketing strategies employed by them prove ineffective to bring more leads. Of a small number of leads, only the ones on the top of the funnel turn into sales, and the closing quotes for those sales remain unimpressive.

The lack of effective strategies is a serious problem, over which many brands have been losing their sleep. One strategy, recently handpicked by a number of brands is making the marketing approach empathetic so that it helps to create a bond with audiences.

Empathy marketing

The strategy has got a fancy name, “empathy marketing.” I’ll discuss it in this article, but not in isolation. The discussion will include recent marketing innovations as well as the upcoming empathy button, a feature, currently in the pipeline and announced to be launched soon by Facebook.

Buyer persona

The key reason many erstwhile social marketing techniques are now outdated is they never considered buyers as people with flesh and blood. They rather considered them as atypical consumers with only one motto in life; purchasing branded products.

A buyer is an individual. Before promoting your product, you need to connect to him. Most outdated marketing techniques were doing the exact opposite. Empathy marketing puts the emphasis on the buyer’s persona and this way, stands different from those techniques.

Invoking emotions

A person can be identified in terms of how empathetic he is. Empathy marketing strategies aim to identify individuals this way. The benefit of this approach is it invokes emotions in people, which affect their buying decisions.

Connecting to buyers on a psychological level has its benefits, and we’ll discuss those benefits later. It’s surprising that on one hand brands eagerly want to know what factors influence purchasing decisions and on the other hand they are not employing strategies to fill the emotional gap with fans.

The nexus between content marketing and social media has given birth to various revolutionary formats. Emotions can be expressed through these formats. But discovering the link between emotions and purchases is not easy. Buyer’s persona and customer experience are closely linked. Empathy marketing can reveal this.

Heart, not wallet

This is a bit tricky as brands target customer’s wallets and attempt to persuade them to buy stuff. However, experts believe this strategy is wrong. Top brands attempt to win a customer’s heart, not his wallet. Empathy marketing can be instrumental in succeeding in this endeavor, here’s why:

Brand loyalty index

Imagine brand loyalty as an index, ABC Enterprise is a brand and John is a customer. John buys something from ABC Enterprise. What is his brand loyalty index score? Zero. John buys again from the same brand. Does he score anything this time? Yes, he does. His score is 1 because he’s a repeat visitor who hints at loyalty to the brand.

The rest of the equation is simple; the more john buys from ABC Enterprise, the higher he scores in the loyalty index. Top brands want the loyalty index to register a high score from all customers, thus connect to them on an emotional level.

Buy why empathy?

Happiness, fun, aspiration are all positive emotions, but these emotions are all lighthearted. Empathy, however, is a reaction to fateful real-life incidents. Brands who inform audiences about such incidents and insist them to react, appear responsible and sensible. They automatically get an image makeover.

Fans start taking such brands seriously. This is a rewarding thing for any brand out there as it allows them to strengthen the already established emotional connection with their audiences.

In the B2B scenario too, empathy can help brands in two following ways:

  • Businesses decisions often depend on emotional intelligence and the display of empathy evidences high emotional intelligence. Studies have proved that the corporate hierarchy becomes more productive when the top layers empathize with bottom layers and treat them as humans, not as resources.
  • B2Bs take corporate social responsibility (CSR) more seriously than B2Cs because the latter group is always connected to ordinary people who buy from them. Showing empathy can make CSR initiatives more effective for them.

Despite these upsides, there are few downsides to empathy marketing.

Problems for empathy campaigns

Now we’ve come to the slippery slopes of the mountain. Running an empathy campaign is not easy. The biggest roadblock is the unavailability of web tools and technologies. Because the territory is somewhat uncharted, a brand may have to devise its own strategies. Emotional and visual designs may help but to a very limited extent.

A goal oriented empathy campaign lacks a bird’s eye view. It focuses on the leads-to-sales conversion, which makes it even more difficult for it to succeed. For example, addressing the emotional needs of customers is a must for an empathy marketing campaign. However, customers might interpret the allowance as a display of nobility, and ignore the subtle marketing pitch.

The rumored “empathy button”

Empathy button can lend a brand a hand. After it becomes a reality, quantifying an emotional response would be easy because the rumored button may function as a parameter. On today’s date, a brand can measure how many person likes its updates. The empathy button can allow them to gauge a user’s predilection towards certain products based on emotional reactions from him.

It’s not fully clear to us whether the yet-to-be launched button will trigger empathy alone, or disapproval too. An article published on AdWeek by David Cohen explicates the two terms, “empathy” and “dislike” interchangeably. We don’t know for sure whether Facebook considers them synonymous because Zuckerberg only beat around the bush when he announced the button first time from a Q&A platform.

It’s not possible to gauge the effectiveness of the button solely based on speculations, we need more details, which we don’t have at this moment.

Better empathy marketing workarounds

The cavalry (Facebook’s empathy button) ain’t coming any time soon, which means brands have to help themselves by finding effective ways to instigate emotions in their audiences. Below are some of the strategies that might come in handy for this purpose:

  • Lurking in the social platforms, using social listening tool and techniques to better understand people’s emotions, and finetune the product line accordingly.
  • Telling CCEs to move to a non-formal conversation style so customers express themselves better. This way, it’d be easy to better apprehend a customer’s personality traits and emotions.
  • Monitoring the review sites using custom tools to observe how people are expressing their anger, frustration, disappointment and appreciation in regard to brands and their products/services.
  • Creating custom analytics based on data collected through interacting with customers and monitoring them.

The good news is, many tools are scheduled to arrive, which are exclusively to create emotional customers. The workarounds above, coupled with the tools can function as excellent leverage for empathy marketing.

Image: Man Hand writing Empathy with black marker on visual screen. Isolated on nature. Business, technology, internet concept

Supriyo Das

Supriyo Das

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