We use empathy to understand and relate to users – helping us create appealing content interactions. Today, more organizations are focused on empathy as a tool to encourage user engagement with their brand. Imagery and videos play a significant role in this type of messaging. But a primary challenge remains: how do we tag this content to support this
communication across multiple channels? It’s one thing to tag content for a specific campaign, but what about entire websites, apps, mailings, etc.? This session will explore how tagging based on empathy can increase brand engagement. It will also discuss the importance of context in user experiences – regional, cultural and socioeconomic – and how that affects the act of tagging and the content we use.
Today I want to explore empathy and how we can represent empathy in our asset tagging.
This is an open discussion, and I welcome any comments or questions during this presentation.
I work a lot with taxonomies and metadata with many of my clients.
I’m a content strategist that has worked with digital asset management projects.
So why this presentation?
This sprung from a comment I made during the 2018 DAM Summit in (I believe) this very same room. It was in response regarding the future direction of DAMs, I said that it would be nice to see more empathy represented in asset tagging.
Sean from Insight Exchange Network contacted me about speaking at the 2019 Summit – and I submitted this “Tagging and Empathy” idea for a presentation.
Then I had to pull the presentation together! After interviews, much research and thinking, here are my thoughts. This is an exploration and a start of a discussion.
So, again, feel free to contribute!
Before we dive into discussing empathy, definitions, etc. I’d like to tell you a story.
I suffer from tinnitus, a ‘ringing in the ears’ that I’ve had for about the last 25 years. I’m mostly deaf in one ear because of it. Most of my friends know about it. I’ve adjusted – I automatically move people around a dinner table, sit in certain places in a room to account for the acoustics, use a white noise generator and so on. What I hear in my head sounds similar to the audio file attached to this presentation.
Recently, my good friend got an ear infection and started to experience tinnitus, as well as a migraine (which is often associated with tinnitus). He was complaining about this, the effects it was having on his day, his work, etc. I knew exactly what he was going through, and this was probably the first time he truly experienced what I’ve dealt with for so long. I felt badly for him (this experience is not fun), but I couldn’t help but say: “Welcome to my world, Bucko!”
So let’s talk a bit about empathy.
There are three types of empathy.
Cognitive. Emotional recognition; the perception and accurate identification of the ‘feeling states’ of others.
Emotional. Also called “Affective Empathy” is the mirroring of the ‘feeling states’ of others.
Compassionate. Feelings of sympathy, concern and compassion for another. Often considered to be a consequence of the first two forms of empathy. Typically this type of empathy is the most socially desirable.
A great video explaining empathy, by Brene Brown: https://youtu.be/1Evwgu369Jw
The upshot: Being able to walk in another person’s shoes, no matter the heel height. Thanks to Margaret Magnarelli for this quote!
Quote: Margaret Magnarelli, https://contently.com/2017/11/03/marketing-buzzword-actually-care-about/
It is also important to note that empathy is a skill that can be learned.
We often hear about emotional (or social) intelligence (also known as emotional intelligence quotient), and how empathy plays a part in creating this state of mind.
For many people, empathy is a key part of their personal and professional success.
While empathy is considered to be good for people, what about organizations?
Keeping empathy in mind, helps to: Creates distinctive content experiences that many consumers are expecting. These distinctive content experiences lead to brand loyalty. And they increase consumer interest.
Quote Source: Ann Handley: https://www.sproutcontent.com/blog/12-Inspiring-Content-Marketing-Quotes-From-the-Experts-and-a-Rockstar
But we should consider metrics as well.
As we start the New Year, many people put learning new things on their resolution list. YouTube stats found 70% of millennial users watched YouTube to learn how to do something new. And interestingly, that 45% of users agree that a YouTuber has inspired them to make a personal change in their life.
A study by the Havas Group found that more ‘meaningful’ brands outperform in the stock market. And perhaps most interestingly, people wouldn’t care if 74% of the brands they use just disappeared.
So what about these meaningful/empathetic experiences? Examples follow.
The first example focuses on a combination of images and text.
The women’s clothing company MM.LAFLEUR, created long form biographies with compelling portrait images to tell a person’s story. They explored a woman’s ups and downs, successes, encounters, and so on.
The payoff? A clothing store that’s about more than just clothing. But also helps to sell the product as at the bottom of the bio, as the page displays outfit recommendations based on the particular subject’s clothing in the images.
This example uses a virtual reality experience to help people understand how autistic people perceive their environment.
It is a self-directed exploration with 360 views, including incidents sparking environmental stimuli. It mimics how autistic people perceive their environment.
There is also a walk-through video (no exploration), which provides a similar experience.
This experiential content helps to create awareness for a condition at a level that could not be communicated through text or still images.
Autism TMI Virtual Reality Experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgDR_gYk_a8 Related Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lr4_dOorquQ
Finally, this video by Under Armour shows Misty Copeland performing ballet while a child’s voice reads her rejection letters. Her grace belies the words being read and shows her determination to succeed. Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre.
The brand correlation: We all like an underdog, and we like associating with brands that represent determination and grit.
For empathetic content to be successful, we put this content in context: with itself, and with the target audience.
Aspects of context include: Culture, Income, Education, Ethnicity, Social Norms
I won’t go into detail on these now, but keep them in mind as we go through the next few slides.
Because if you don’t take context into consideration, your efforts to utilize empathy and content can backfire.
To build empathy, you need to have a level of trust.
‘Creepy’ personalization or overly pushy content will backfire on a brand.
Consider this example where a woman’s dad is in assisted living and he received a Christmas basket from the local mortuary.
Personalization (used in tandem with empathy), needs to be carefully planned. Or it will wreak havoc with a brand’s standing.
Sources: Tweet: https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/react-creepy-marketing-personalisation-goes-far/ by Gemma Joyce. (2017).
Accenture report: “Making it Personal: Why brands must move from communication to conversation for greater personalization.” by Accenture Strategy, Pulse Check (2018).
This is an older example, but I still think that it is still telling for our time.
Here, a company (Target) has used a massive collection of ‘big data’ to determine if a woman is pregnant or not. Based on this data, the company sent out targeted mailers to a pregnant teen, focusing on baby products - even before her father was informed of the pregnancy.
This type of interaction can make people feel they have a lack of control over their data, and markedly reduces any ability to create an empathetic experience.
Article Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-target-figured-out-a-teen-girl-was-pregnant-before-her-father-did/#2e827a8d6668 Related NY Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html
Based on your personal context and worldview, images can have different interpretations.
“What is that thing?” is informed by who we are as individuals, as well as members of different groups (family, work, ethnic, etc.)
On the left, New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II. A quote with this image: “They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square.“
On the right, Gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos showing the raised fist on the podium after the 200 m race at the 1968 Summer Olympics protesting racial discrimination; both wear Olympic Project for Human Rights badges. Peter Norman from Australia also wears the same badge in solidarity with Smith and Carlos.
Sources: Kissing the War Goodbye: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kissing_the_War_Goodbye.jpg 1968 Olympics Salute: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute#/media/File:John_Carlos,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr.jpg
And attempts to incorporate events into a brand’s story can backfire.
On the left, Ieshia Evans during protests against policy brutality in Baton Rouge. This image went viral and resonated with many.
On the right, Kendall Jenner in a Pepsi ad that was seen as tone-deaf and playing ‘fast and loose’ with protest imagery.
Pepsi’s response: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.”
Another example: Dolce & Gabbana’s video advertisements in China, which were widely seen as racist, pandering to old stereotypes: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/23/fashion/dolce-gabbana-china-disaster-backlash.html
Sources: Left – Baton Rouge. Photo by Jonathan Bachman. http://time.com/4400563/baton-rouge-protests-alton-sterling-woman-arrest-photo-iconic-reuters-jonathan-bachman/ Related Article: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ieshia-evans-woman-iconic-baton-rouge-police-protests-photo-speaks-out/ Right – Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad (Still). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwvAgDCOdU4 Related Article: http://time.com/4726500/pepsi-ad-kendall-jenner/
So where does all of this talk about empathy get us? Let’s talk about context again and think in terms of representing empathy when tagging assets.
This is particularly important for global brands, but can apply to all brands.
Culture – Way of life (which can differ within the same country). As someone born and raised in the Midwest and who has been living on the East coast for 20 years, I can certainly attest to this.
Education – Education level is key here, as well as associations with college or university experiences (especially in sports).
Income – For certain brands, understanding income is important. Is it affordable? Is it exclusive? Is it trendy? Will I look cool?
Ethnicity – Where do you feel at ‘home’? Who are your ‘people’? This can be small or large groups.
Social Norms – What is socially acceptable to you? Again, this could vary widely within a group or geographic area.
Keeping this context in mind, let’s talk metadata.
Here we have the standard metadata that we are used to:
Technical – the technical details of a particular photo or video
Descriptive – describes the actual content: number of people, action taking place, colors in image, clothing designers, etc.
Administrative – licensing rights, copyright, workflow, approval, etc.
Now what about empathy metadata? I like to think in terms of an empathy map.
Who is the user and his/her context?
Audience – this is really where the context comes into play. Segment - is the division of the market or population into subgroups with similar motivations. Segments can include: geographic, demographic, use of product, level of expertise Persona - fictional characters (archetypes), which are created based upon research in order to represent the different user types that might use your service, product, site, or brand in a similar way.
Communication Goal – What does the company/brand want to communicate?
Emotional Mindset – What’s the mindset of the user? For example, in a retail context it could be: Needs Validation, Got to Be First/Early Adopter, Buy and Be Done with it, etc.
By incorporating these aspects into your metadata and tagging strategy allows you to delivery empathetic content to specific audiences.
Source for Emotional Mindset examples: Smith Report: Emotional Drivers of Purchase Decisions, https://smith.co/assets/docs/SMITH-POV-8-modes-of-shopping-report.pdf
Image: NN/g Nielsen Norman Group, https://www.nngroup.com/
Ultimately, you need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
Focus on qualitative methods, including: Walking the customer journey(s) Stories Qualitative Metrics Sentiment Focus Groups Interviews Customer support/call center feedback Sales team input, for B2C and B2B
This will help you direct your tagging strategy and help you to course correct when needed.
This sounds great, but there are definite roadblocks that can come up.
The definition of your audience changes, necessitating an entire re-think of your tagging strategy New personas or segments are added, requiring additional tagging (on top of new content) Are you personas up to date? Customer journeys are added or altered, again requiring additional tagging or (re) tagging For some brands, the sheer number of objects that need to be tagged – in order to create an ongoing and engaging experience (as opposed to a one-off campaign)
Tagging with empathy in mind is possible.
A careful approach is needed. Think pilot!
Be sure to identify your audience(s) and their context(s).