How Great Brands are Using Empathy To Better Connect With Their Audiences


It’s easy to get so caught up in the metrics of all the marketing initiatives you have running that you forget real humans are behind the numbers driving your decisions.

Things like clicks, open rates, and sales don’t just appear on their own, though, they come from real human beings who are interacting with your brand.

If you obsess over the numbers rather than the experience you’re providing, someone else is going to swoop down and treat your current audiences like they should be treated.

But there are things you can do to ensure this doesn’t happen.

One of the most effective ways to improve user experience is by connecting with your readers on an emotional level. When you tap into their emotions, you leave a lasting impression that stays with them throughout the customer journey.

But how can you connect with your readers at the right time, and with the right content when there is so much clutter on the internet?

In this article, we’re going to show you:

  1. Ways to cut through the noise
  2. How to put yourself in the customer’s shoes
  3. Tips for getting to know your audience
  4. What great brands are doing as examples

Asking the Right Questions

A great place to start is by asking yourself some simple questions about your readers:

  • What types of things do my customers like to do?
  • What interests do they have?
  • Are they likely to have graduated from college?
  • Do they have families?
  • Do they have a desire to help others?

These will be subjective to you and your personal business goals, but feel free to use these as a template for better understanding the daily life of your audience.

Once you have your questions compiled, the next step is in obtaining the answers…

Here are some quick and painless ways to surface some good responses:

  1. Create a quick 5-7 question survey in Google Forms that you send to your database.
  2. Track the real-time behavior on your website with automation software or Google Analytics.
  3. Create a poll which you can host or share to social media.

By understanding your audience more intuitively, you can look through their lens and answer the questions they’re looking for via the search engines.

It all begins with empathy.

What is Audience Empathy?

Audience empathy can be defined as:

“The ability to be conscious of, and have compassion for, the intellectual state of your audience.” – Steve Lowell

In other words, you are aware of the emotional state that your customers are in when they are interacting with your brand.

Why is this important?

Because people make buying decisions based on emotion, and they validate them with logic.


(Source: Guided-Selling)

Let’s try this hypothetical on for size:

Liz wants to buy a new designer purse. She has the desire to fit in with the trends. She also wants people to think that she is successful in her career. Liz’s emotions (sense of belonging, feeling of wealth) are fueling her desire to buy the purse. Liz validates the purchase with logic. Maybe the purse is on sale, so now is the time to buy it. Or perhaps she needs a new accessory to match her work wardrobe.

Rather than pointing out all the great features of the purse, audience empathy allows you to tap into the emotional side of Liz’s journey.

Identifying with her need to feel trendy, stylish and successful through the use of good content is how you persuade her to buy the purse:


Note – Sarah is the founder and creative mind behind Simply Stylist

Why is Audience Empathy Important?

As much as we value our audiences, we have to admit one thing: they’re only concerned about their own experience.

When a prospect lands on your website, they expect clear instructions, waiting on you to show them step-by-step which actions to take. If you don’t point things out directly, they’re likely to leave.

Oh, and don’t even get us started on the content side of things.

Readers expect to be entertained within the first few seconds of a post. Whether it’s a question, an interesting fact, or a bold statement, you have milliseconds to hook them in.

To be competitive, more brands are rising to the challenge and taking the initiative to better relate to their audience.

Brands know that if they’re not successful at attracting some type of interest, prospects won’t hesitate to move on.

Their time is precious.

As a customer, you can probably relate, but as a marketer, it’s frustrating.

Luckily, a little bit of empathy brings a lot of value. It helps people trust your message and believe in your brand.

Audience empathy also creates positive brand associations. Even if you don’t get everything right, your customers will appreciate your effort.

Examples of Audience Empathy in Action

You probably have a good idea of what audience empathy looks like, but it always helps to see a few successful examples.

Thank You Mom

One of our favorites is Procter and Gamble’s “Thank You Mom,” campaign. The campaign won international acclaim and brought in an additional $500 million from the London Olympics alone.

The campaign was wildly successful because it found a way into the hearts of moms (talk about a sweet spot!) and acknowledged the job they do each day.

The campaign did a bit of soft selling, featuring products from P&G that help make the jobs of mothers easier, safer, more efficient, etc.

In the end, P&G created positive brand associations with their audience – and probably helped a few kids make up with their moms.


(Source: AdForum)

Dear Sophie

Another example is Google’s “Dear Sophie” campaign:

Google admitted that the campaign was built on emotions, not terms. As Google saw the competition around them rising, they knew they had to separate themselves from the pack.

That’s when they decided to tap into their audience’s emotion and make them cry – literally.

Many viewers had a hard time keeping it together when watching the Dear Sophie ad which tells the story of a father sending multimedia messages to his daughter.

Just about anyone can identify with the message of life passing by quickly and the importance of preserving memories.

Can you be as successful as P&G and Google?

Of course you can.

While your ad may not get a slot on the SuperBowl, you can still find your way into the hearts of your audience.

How to Create an Empathy Map

As you begin to put empathy into practice, it helps to build something called an empathy map:


(Source: Outbrain)

Here’s how to start.

  • Draw a square.
  • Divide the square into four equal sections.
  • Label the sections with: See, Hear, Think & Feel and Say & Do.
  • Place a symbol of your audience in the middle of the square, such as a logo or face. The sections should all connect to this middle.
  • Fill in each section with answers to the following questions


  • Is your audience highly visual?
  • Are they looking for enticing content? Great design?


  • What music does your audience listen to?
  • What types of things are they telling themselves?

Think & Feel

  • What does your audience do during the day?
  • Does your audience feel stressed? Relaxed?
  • Do they have a job that they love? A family at home? Money to spend?

Say & Do

  • What types of things does your audience tell others?
  • What actions do they follow on a daily basis?

Pain Points

  • Are there any barriers in their way?
  • What are they the most fearful of?

Measures of Success

  • What does success look like for your audience?
  • Are they benchmarking against their peers?
  • Do they have any particular goals?

These questions are just to get you warmed up and are by no means a complete list.

The key is to ask yourself questions about your audience and then fill in the responses to help you be more empathetic to your customer needs.

You can also use some of the data you gathered above via Google Forms and social polls.

Fitting Empathy into Your Marketing Strategy

Once your empathy map is complete, you’re ready to start building empathy into your marketing strategies.

Let’s look at a few tips for doing so efficiently.

Find Common Ground

Think about how you feel when you meet someone — you’re more likely to pursue a friendship with someone who has shared interests over someone who has nothing in common with you.

Finding common ground with your audience is a great way to break down the barrier and tug on their heartstrings.

A simple way to do this is by using examples that your audience can relate to.

Discuss events, anecdotes, or stories that you know may be of interest to your audience, this not only humanizes your brand but makes you relatable.

For instance, if you tried to recreate a recipe from Pinterest and it took a turn for the worst, create a laugh about the hijinks that ensued.


Stories like these let your audience know that there are real people associated with your brand who experience the same real-life situations as them.

If you add a dash of humor, this will make it even more relatable, as everyone enjoys a funny story — one that they can engage with and share.

Speak in Second Person

Whether you’re writing text for an ad, landing page copy or general content, always speak in the second person

Third-person used to the be formal, preferred way to deliver a message, but it has a way of sounding too professional and emotionally removed from the customer.

Words like “you” and “your” produce higher conversion rates while also sounding warmer and friendlier; like you’re speaking directly to the reader.

Be an Active Listener

There is a final, simple way to put empathy into practice: be a great listener.

Show your audience that you’re there and open to learning new information about them.

You don’t have all the answers, which is why you ask questions, take polls, request feedback, etc. on social media.

When you do follow through with recommendations from your customers, be sure to point that out, even using their feedback to increase content conversions.

Online audiences want to know they matter, and listening is one of the best and cheapest ways to communicate this to them.


People are constantly invited to check out content, whether it be social media, paid media, SEO or lead nurturing. With so many brands vying for their attention, people have no choice but to be selective about where they put their time.

Once you have a prospect’s attention, the ball is in your court to make the content interesting, engaging, and most importantly, relatable, which you accomplish through empathy.

Being empathetic shows your customers that you understand their journey.

Do remember that people change, and what your customers want today can change on a whim. So, try using empathy maps to continuously learn about your customers and then display empathy across all the various touch points.

Set yourself apart from your competitors and watch audiences gravitate toward your brand or company as you connect with them on a higher level all while increasing brand associations, creating stronger bonds, producing more sales and a better ROI.

Need more information on how to build a brand – visit here: 5 Steps to Building A Premium Brand

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