Empathy and Brand Loyalty: Connecting with Your Audience | Seatle Interactive 2019
Corrie Wilder (Speaker) Director, Marketing & Communications / Clinical Assistant Professor, Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, WSU
Do you tell your customers what you want them to hear without first considering if they actually care about what you are saying? If you do, you're not alone. As brand leaders, we are our own biggest cheerleaders and often expect our enthusiasm to be contagious, regardless of whether our audience understands us. As communications professionals, it is our job to create connections, and the strongest connections are made when we take the time to get to know our customers on a deep, personal level.
In this session you will learn how to gain a deeper understanding of your customers and create a brand experience they will care about.
I have an issue with leftovers. I’m totally paranoid about anything left in the fridge in a container, even if it was me who put it there. I’ll hold a container up to my husband’s face and say “smell this it smells like it’s going bad” and he’ll be like, “it’s FINE, it’s leftovers from LAST NIGHT.” When I was a kid, we ate leftovers of course. My mom did not want to be wasteful and she is incredibly efficient. But. But, she used to do this thing. If we didn’t have a plan for dinner (she is a big planner) she would open the fridge and rummage through it for a few minutes, really reaching into the depths of the bottom shelves, then pull something unrecognizable out, open the Tupperware, smell it and say, “someone better eat this or I’m going to throw it away.” To her credit, mom was thinking that she did not want to waste perfectly good food. She did not consider that making leftovers sound like refuse was not exactly going to generate enthusiasm for the product, especially among her teenagers.
OK so what’s the point of that, besides my getting a little free group therapy. The point is that we need to consider how our customer ticks in order to successfully persuade them to be loyal to our brand.
Humans only have an attention span of 8 seconds, 1 second less than a goldfish. It only makes sense that humans value what little attention they have to share with others when not concentrating on regular life functions like breathing, eating, bathing and using Discord. What does that mean?
Human attention is valuable. What’s the best way to get the attention of the humans we’re interested in? We need to connect with them, right? We need to practice empathy. Empathy moves people toward each other in a helping capacity.
We are all familiar with emotional empathy, where we share someone else’s pain. In this case, we’re not talking about that so much as we are getting into someone else’s head. When it comes to human behavior as it relates to brand or product development, we focus on cognitive empathy.
With cognitive empathy, we are trying to tap into the idea of placing ourselves in someone else's situation and gaining a better understanding of his/her experience. We take on their perspective. You don't necessarily feel what they're feeling, but you can rationally understand how they see the world. We can meet people where they are and for example, We want to see smokers having a hard time quitting or how sharing a Coke can make someone feel better after a bad day. We practice imagining what it might be like to be them at that moment, looking at the situation or circumstance from their perspective.
As marketers, we are keenly aware that one’s own experience is our top priority. Ultimately, practicing empathy and immersing ourselves in the experience of the consumer can create a lasting connection between consumer and brand. We have a responsibility to gain consumer trust so they let us into their lives. Think about it this way: understanding the consumer and empathizing with their experience has helped technology to move closer and closer to humans, augmenting more and more aspects of our lives. Within my lifetime, we have evolved from call waiting and the Commodore 64 to where it’s totally normal to have a little pocket computer with you in the bathroom. Every step in that -- and any -- market evolution places more and more responsibility in our hands as the creators and marketers of brands and products and services. How do we act on that and take on that responsibility? We know that being empathetic shows your customers that you understand their journey. But how do you build that empathy?
Unpredictability is a fundamental part of human nature. So it’s really difficult to get into someone else’s head; our own is every bit as complicated. Keep in mind that there are so many properties about human behavior that don’t expose themselves through things like survey data and those properties can make all the difference when you’re working on a brand strategy.
This is the Aeron chair. So when you’re designing a product like the Aeron chair, you do some ethnographic research first. You’re really looking for “vershten” — empathic understanding of human behavior. What is it like to work in an office? Who is in an office? What role do chairs play, symbolically, ergonomically, in the work process? This is what the Aeron chair designers did.
They visited a lot of offices. They “hung out.” They began to notice that people would squirm a lot in their existing chairs. Why do they do this? They wondered. Through this ethnographic study of the office worker in their natural habitat, they figured out that the fabric was too hot. The theory they developed from their careful observations was that they could make a much more comfortable chair, if they got rid of the fabric and let the chair breathe.
We cannot develop empathy for datasets. We can develop empathy for individuals.
This is a picture of Dulles International Airport in Virginia; somewhere in the 1962 to 1965 range. What do you see? People with luggage, family sitting with luggage. Important people looking to get to important places.
Look closer. Look through the eyes of airline pilot Bernard Sadow. This guy travels, a LOT. Sometimes he needs to get to flights quickly. He even sometimes needs to run a little bit through the airport. It occurred to him, probably one day when he was schvitzing from dragging a bag through one of the many airports he traveled through, that dragging his stuff would be so much easier IF THERE WERE WHEELS ON THIS BAG.
So. In 1972, 6000 years after the wheel was invented, it occurred to one smart pilot after spending lots of time observing different kinds of people in different airports that schlepping luggage while in a rush was not a workable situation. He put wheels on luggage. It’s amazing. We put a man on the moon before it occurred to us to put wheels on luggage. To become stronger, better, faster and more competitive athletes, we need to work out and practice. We need to exercise. We need to stretch, sweat and push our way out of our comfort zones to achieve a higher level of skill and performance.
But what about the muscles needed to be an empathetically fit human being? How do we exercise those? Understanding human nature takes a really long time. There are myriad unsolved and undiscovered challenges to solve, just waiting for you to fix them.
For example, I spent a few hours recently working with a group of volunteers who spend 80 hours over two years protecting the waters and wildlife of Puget Sound. The “Beachwatchers” as they are called, go through intensive training to learn about coastal processes, marine organisms, water quality conditions and vegetation coverage.
They also need to facilitate public education activities, host events to educate residents in Snohomish county about all they can do to help conserve our natural habitats.
Sounds easy, yes? Slam dunk, right? After 80 hours of training it feels like everyone around us has a common goal and they will all meet the “save the sound” challenge with the same knowledge and enthusiasm as we do. People will be waiting on line with their cleanup kits to remove marine debris from the shoreline.
But if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, we know that most of us laypeople don’t know much more about our beaches beyond where the best parking is and where we are allowed to bring our wine. So how do we educate, inspire and empower communities to practice environmental stewardship?
The communication goal, ultimately, is to change people’s perception—for example, from garbage and toxic waste being “other people’s problem,” toward a sense of collective responsibility for our community.
This is much more complicated and potentially more intimidating.
So this seems like a tangent, but you know what speed indicator signs are, right? The signs that light up in response to how fast you’re driving and are supposed to act as a speeding deterrent. Well, there are alternate speed indicator signs- overseas, I think like in the UK and Australia, have any of you seen them?
These signs that flash your speed at you, also show a smiley face or a frowny face, to act as an emotional trigger. Apparently, they prevent something like twice as many accidents as traditional methods of speed indication. (Personally I think it speaks volumes about our culture that emojis have a better effect on changing behavior than the threat of a $120 fine and three penalty points.) So the trigger, or the impulse, to take an action relies in this case on the emoji, not the number. With a small change to an interface by which people make decisions, the very nature of the decisions change.
Back to the Puget Sound. To save the orca, to care for our Salish sea, it’s not enough to do Beachwatchers training. We need to recruit! We need to market our cause, and to get people to buy-in we need to fundamentally change human behavior.
You not only need to be an expert on your subject matter, you need to be an expert on who you are teaching the subject matter to.
Let’s do a little exercise called empathy mapping that can help us gain a deeper level of understanding of the stakeholders in our ecosystem in the context of their experience with your service.
Empathy mapping is a quick and simple way of visualizing the experience someone has in relation to any BOBIT (Brand, Organization, Business, Issue, Thing). Clearly the keyword here is “empathy” and the goal is to adopt someone else’s mindset. Empathy maps are best used after a little bit of exploratory research and before things like in-depth interviews. For example, if the Herman Miller folks used this technique it may have been implemented after the office visits and prior to prototyping. It is a tool that can leverage the knowledge of the people on your team to tease out customer insights. To fill in our empathy map, we select a motivator -- a target audience -- and consider the imaginary person who represents that group.
Humanize your motivator: Who are you speaking to? Give the human a name. Maybe even a job title, any detail that helps you visualize them. If you know someone who fits the profile of a person in your target audience, keep that person in mind when you fill out the map.
Now, fill in the blanks.
What does she see? What is she encountering in her daily experiences? These could be people, their activities, or things. What are the people around her doing?
What does she say and do? We are considering action behaviors. What is her attitude toward others? What a person says may change depending on where he is, who he is with, or who is within earshot. Attitude speaks to actions towards others. Has his behavior changed recently, or does it change in a public versus private settings?
What do they HEAR? Opinions, feedback, conversation. How could this influence their behavior?
What does this person THINK and FEEL? Now we dig deeper. What do you think they might be thinking? What are their motivations, their goals, their needs, their desires? What does this tell you about his or her beliefs? What makes them feel good or bad? What does she worry about or what keeps her up at night?
It’s also helpful to consider “pains” and “gains”. Pains: what is this person’s fears and frustrations? With regard to a conference, you may consider that someone who is a “job seeker” might also be nervous to speak with recruiters. Gains: What does success look like? What is this person’s overall goal?
So let’s give this a try. Break into groups of two or three. Let’s use this map to focus on the following challenge: Let’s say we need to come up with clever ways to influence people to register for the Seattle Interactive Conference. We are aware of a number of user types, for example, the job seeker, the student, the socializer, the drinker...each one a unique motivation to attend... each one drives different behaviors and goals. In your groups, select one motivator and map it out!
I teach an introduction to research methods class. Some of the things I like to believe my students take away apply to the practice of empathy. Maybe they will help you, too. Be curious about the world and human behavior Expose yourself to the world of the people who you want to reach Go narrow Go deep Numbers are powerful but not omniscient You need to know the power AND the limits of what you can learn through data. Your ultimate goal, through all you learn and practice, is to make small improvements to the world and be proud of them.
Empathy and Brand Loyalty: Connecting with Your Audience | Seatle Interactive 2019
Empathy and brand loyalty: Connecting with your audience
Director of Marketing & Communications/Clinical Assistant Professor
Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, WSU
Humans only have an
attention span of 8 seconds.
One second less than a goldfish.
• Be curious about the world
• Immerse yourself in the world
of the people you want to reach
• Go narrow
• Go deep
• Data is powerful but not omniscient
• Make small improvements to the
world and be proud of them.