We Need More Empathy in Marketing Right Now

McDonald's and GoFundMe do it well

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In today’s digital world, we are constantly bombarded with noise, information and marketing, making it near impossible to remember every message that you scroll past on social media. However, if they do it right, you remember what those brands made you feel.

People do not want to be sold to.  They want to feel safe. They want to feel heard. They want to feel some sense of normalcy.

No industry practices empathy marketing better than the music industry.

Think about the latest album that you listened to on repeat. What made you love that music so much? Most likely the campaign, music or artist made you feel something. The artist and their team use empathy to relate to their target audiences, and they frame the music in a way that makes the album/single super relevant to their audience. Even in music, there are campaign best practices. There is no one end-all-be-all growth hack to make a song soar to the charts. What made artists successful was their ability to connect with their audience on an emotional, intimate and meaningful level.

For example, Justin Bieber put out a song called “Lonely” this year, and it spent 23 weeks on Billboard’s Global 200 Chart and peaked at Number 5. Bieber used vulnerability to share his own story and empathy to connect with us all on a deeper level. 

So how does this translate to brands? How can brands embody empathy to build trust with their audiences? Here are recent examples of brands doing it well:

McDonald’s has been leaning into the most impactful emotion there is: nostalgia, making us crave their experience as we scroll through social. Something as obscure and random as popping the buttons on a soda lid conjures up the emotions associated with McDonalds, e.g., road trips, memories with friends, etc. 

GoFundMe felt the fear and anger of the world as cases of hate crimes toward the Asian American & Pacific Islander community surged. They did not simply make a statement, but they also used their platform to build the AAPI Community Relief Fund to create a centralized resource for people to turn to and support. They felt the universal emotions of fear and anger and acted upon it with empathy.

Webflow created a whole new event experience for its community. The company used empathy to understand that its community was burned out. Zoom fatigue was real. Webflow created a custom Gather Town space that made the event interactive, gamified and fun. The physical action of sitting at their desks was the same, but the experience was personal and full of empathy and will be extremely memorable for the company’s guests. 

You can use your superpower of empathy in a meaningful way. It’s the importance of writing to people’s emotions, not just the target demographic. By using language that involves them and makes them the focus of the conversation, you can make your audience feel something.