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Brand Storytelling

Empathy Emerges As The New Marketing

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Empathy Emerges As The New Marketing

When I was approached by a commissioning editor two years ago with the idea of writing Brand Storytelling: Put Customers at The Heart of Your Brand Story, I would have never imagined how the very topic I’d been writing about and trying to evangelize on a public stage would become a leading innovation during one of the most cathartic moments in modern day history.

Empathy has become a hot commodity lately–theoretically. We’re seeing dozens of articles, thought leaders and hashtag trends propose the idea of using empathy as a business leadership and marketing approach. However, the true practice of introducing a compassionate lens into the ecosystem of commerce is still far fetched to many and that’s why I want to offer a couple of practical steps, taken right out of some pages from my book, to help you embark on this dynamic journey of brands becoming human and empathy becoming the new marketing.

The Robin To Batman Effect. Unequivocally, any character in a story has its own identity. As such, it is empowered to evolve itself as the story unfolds. At the brand story level, leading with empathy means you are willing to put your product and service aside as the hero of your brand story and empower your customer to lead the narrative from their perspective. Making your customer the brand story hero looks like this:

(Chapter 5) The Brand Story Hero

  • Read your brand mission.
  • Read it again.
  • Analyze it.
  • See if the customer shows up, if they show up at all. See how they show up. Do they show up as the hero at all?
  • See if the story is about your product’s new awesome features or if it centers on how your products and services make your customer better, enabling then to win.

During COVID-19, many brands have approached me asking the same question: Do I need to pivot my brand services? Should I change my brand voice, tone or personality to appeal to customers during this time? Should I rewrite my brand mission? These are all valid questions, and the answer is always the same: What does your customer want and say about this? If they are truly the hero in your story, you will intuitively and empathetically tune in to their guidance and expectations.

One notable point: whatever changes you make for your brand during this time, if done empathetically and with the intention of letting your customer guide you, the changes will not seem disparate to your customer, but instead, will be welcome as a caring act. Customers are paying attention to what brands are doing—or not—to show customers they care. And will remember in the future the choices brands are making today.

Humanize Your Brand, For Real Now. In the last few years, brands have been putting a lot of time, effort and funding into the idea of building trust with customers through attribution of human tone, voice and personality to their organizations. While these tactics have proven fruitful for the most part, the true notion of humanizing a brand begins with its internal stakeholders (you and your brand leaders) factually seeing the brand as human, and as a result, letting it act human in front of their customers. How?

(Chapter 6) If Story Is Magic, Vulnerability Is The Magic Wand:

Once upon a time, your brand was born.

It was given a name and a mission, and it set out to live that very purpose.

The brand grew in size and wisdom.

It made friends and foes along the way.

It hopes to one day achieve all its goals and soon live happily ever after.

When you see your brand as a human instead of a as a corporation, you are more likely to accept its imperfections, becoming more forgiving of its past mistakes and shortcomings and also recognizing that embracing these natural “human errors” along with the tales of these previous misfortunes can be the most innovative way to reach your audience.

In today’s wavering times, brands have a great opportunity to take their customer by the [human] hand and invite them to navigate this unsteady journey together. Drawing from trusted equity, brands that dare to vulnerably approach this journey by partnering with their customer through the impeding unknowns, will have the chance to build a deeper level of trust and press on together to win in this odyssey, a la Batman and Robin.

Empathy: never leave the cave without it!

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Miri Rodriguez. Excerpted from her book Brand Storytelling: Put Customers At The Heart Of Your Brand Story (Kogan-Page)

At The Blake Project we are helping clients from around the world, in all stages of development, redefine and articulate what makes them competitive at critical moments of change through online strategy workshops. Please email us for more about our storytelling workshops.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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