Alice asked the Cheshire Cat,
who was sitting in a tree,
“What road do I take?”
The cat asked,
“Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat,
“it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

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Brands need to empathize to create value in the terms of their users

Whiplash Team, November 8th 2019

Brands need to empathize to create value in the terms of their users

Put yourself in the shoes of another. Think, feel, get emotional from the other’s perspective, leaving behind, for a moment, your own. Connect with the other’s emotions, values, ​​and needs. When talking of brands, with their users’ emotions, values and needs. What for? To create value from empathy, meaning, in the consumer’s terms. To connect its purpose, its reason to be, with what interests, excites and moves its customers. Why? Because persuasion is based on empathy. That is, on the ability to understand what he needs, why he needs it and when he needs it.

That is key for empathetic brands, which manage to persuade their customers by listening carefully to what they demand, transcending market research, truly understanding what they need or what they expect from the organization. At a time when companies collect daily huge amounts of information about and from their users –either through social networks or several direct interaction channels–, we might think it is easier than ever for brands to be empathetic. Many do use empathy to drive actions, to do things that improve people’s lives, adding value to their clients’ daily lives or connecting with their concerns and the way they see the world.

Users want to establish a special relationship with their brands. They expect brands to understand what moves and worries them. From sexuality to environmental issues through to their physical appearance. In fact, a key answer in studies measuring brand emotional intelligence in connection with consumers is: “It understands me.” And that is crucial. It is not so much about having a lot of data, or about personalizing experiences to the point that they become invasive, but about understanding. It is about listening carefully, putting aside our own judgement and assuming the other’s as own.

Dove, the personal care products brand, is a good example of creating value in users’ terms. In 2004, Dove turned their campaigns around and began talking to women, not about the ideal of beauty they should achieve, but about how perfect they were as they already are and how their products were made for real women. That change of course saved Dove and positioned it as category leader. Before then the brand wasn’t appealing to its audience. It commissioned a study to make the brand more “sexy” but researchers concluded that Dove users did not want a “sexier” brand, but one that made them feel good about themselves. At first it was not easy, because the members of the board of directors did not buy the idea. However, after seeing the results of a focus group, in which their wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers took part, they managed to put themselves in their position and understand –from the closeness of the women of their own families– what they needed.

The campaign was empathy translated into concrete actions. They were talking about a reality –that there are fat, skinny, young and not so young, imperfect women; that not all are or want to be fashion models– and this increased sales. Once Dove managed to connect with the thousands of women’s need to feel cherished for what they are, as they are, creating emotional value for them, it settled in their hearts and in their shopping baskets.

An opportunistic message capturing society’s worries at a given moment is not enough, nor taking up causes just because they are trendy. For a brand to be truly empathetic there must be authenticity in its actions. It has to be accountable for its decisions. It needs to understand consumers, really relating to them, connecting its core purpose with their values, needs, and aspirations. Empathy must be reflected on a relevant value proposition. It must show on the interaction with its users, through a close relationship with them. Last but not least, it must show up through innovative products that generate well-being for the consumer.

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