Emotions, and needs, and brands! Oh my!

The Strategic Imperative of Empathy

We live in a world of seemingly infinite choice. In every category, options abound and multiply on a daily basis. 20+ brands of toothpaste, 24+ brands of business intelligence software, so many brands of jeans you could wear a different one every day. Growing at a rapid pace, the ability of consumers to switch brands is more facile and fluid than ever. What’s a brand marketer to do?

Hit the streets! Yes, that’s right. Leave the office, leave the spreadsheets, leave the data dashboard, and get out there. Meet and talk with current and prospective customers (and I’m not talking about doing a bunch of focus groups or having a moderator do some dyads or triads on your behalf). Instead, take your notebook, take your camera and go on a tour of the places your customers are likely to congregate. Get to know them firsthand. Ask them questions. Let them talk. Listen. Don’t ask them what new product or feature they want. Listen to their personal daily journeys, their daily struggles, and their moments of joy.

And remember, it’s not just about listening to them. EXPERIENCE what they experience. Use all your senses. Walk a mile in their shoes (and feel the pain). Smell the air they breathe. Listen to the crummy on-hold music they have to listen to. Take pictures of what they see. Wait in the lines they have to wait in. Taste the things they eat and drink.

Why do all this you say? Simple. The only path to brilliance comes from empathy for your customer, and you don’t get that by staring down at them from your corner office. When you build empathy, you’ll gain the keys to your customers’ emotional kingdom. A kingdom filled with possibilities for you and them. So go forth, dear marketer. Go forth.