Brand empathy: a force for good
The coronavirus crisis set off a wave of empathetic emails. Brands started contacting their customers to ask how people were and provide reassurance. Perceptive or cynical? It’s all down to perspective - and tone.
78% of global consumers want brands to help them in their daily lives. 74% think that companies shouldn’t exploit the current situation. So a reassuring message is great for loyal customers. It starts to feel doubtful if the reader doesn’t remember buying from you.
Empathy is crucial to business - and it has a direct impact on the bottom line. A deficit in empathy costs brands millions of dollars per year in lost sales from disappointed customers. And while 80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service, only 8% of customers agree.
So, what is empathy? It can be emotional (feeling someone else’s emotions as if they’re your own). It can be cognitive (understanding someone else’s perspective), but it must be compassionate. Feeling must be joined to action. Action must be joined to a positive purpose.
Airbnb has hit the headlines in the UK over so-called ‘isolation rentals’. Clearly the hosts advertising these retreats have empathised with customers’ fears and frustrations. But it’s against lockdown regulations and will hardly win them fans in the long-term. An example of how not to be empathetic.
The drive towards empathy is part of a wider wish for honesty and authenticity in brands. Audiences have been overloaded with aspirational images and messaging for decades. It simply no longer has the same effect.
84% of customers say they will buy from brands that treat them as a person, not a number. Companies like Netflix and Amazon have set the bar high when it comes to personalisation. This is partly down to technology. However, the personal approach only works for businesses that understand their target audiences.
The views of millennials and gen Z are also carrying increasing weight. Only 55% of millennials feel that business is a force for good - down from 77% two years ago. 75% would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company. It’s likely that their consumer choices will be in line with their beliefs.
Empathy is just as important in the B2B sector as it is in B2C. After all, people buy from people. 65% of B2B customers feel overloaded by content (blogs, emails etc.). And no doubt, many are deal with cold-callers from sales teams. The opportunity for a more human approach is clear.
Empathy at work
Life expectancy is rising. And so are pension ages. People know they may well spend longer working than previous generations and put greater emphasis on company culture. This means that brand empathy is crucial for your workforce, too.
Companies that make empathy a part of their culture boost creativity. It has a significant impact on employee engagement too. (And by extension, on retention.) Remember the millennials? They’re set to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025.
A final thought from author Seth Godin: “You can raise the bar or you can wait for others to raise it, but it’s getting raised regardless.” What are you doing to encourage more empathy at your company?
Vicky Martinez Dorr, Founder of “Your Brand Story”, is a qualified Branding Consultant, Business and Leadership Coach, Speaker and Author with certifications in NLP and TimeLine Therapy® and Magna Cum Laude from Solvay Business School in Brussels, Belgium.
With her universe of words, she is on a quest towards helping entrepreneurs thrive and move towards an exemplary leadership world.
Her 15+ years of MarCom experience in International Branding and Multicultural Leadership have taught her how to bring beauty out of chaos in any organisation and people's professional lives. Her findings within the fragmented leadership, have moved her to work towards a more authentic business world and more humane leadership culture.
Vicky is also an Artist, a serial Entrepreneur, and Founder of www.atreefortheplanet.org