Will Your Brand Pass The Empathy Test?

Paul FriederichsenMarch 30, 20202 min

A few years ago here on Branding Strategy Insider, I wrote a piece on empathy, observing the importance of this characteristic in connecting brands with their customers. Empathy validates the feelings, concerns, aspirations and fears someone has, and says, “I understand.” This is not only reassuring but adds relevance to the relationship, as in “we (customer and brand) are together in this.”

Of course, nothing crystalizes the need for empathy more than a crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is filled with examples of brands responding with empathy to their customers’ needs and concerns as business slows to a crawl. Consider these examples:

  • The restaurant or coffee chain that dons not only rubber gloves, but an especially warm smile and greeting as they serve you at the pick-up window or carry out.
  • The home service technicians that advertise their sanitary approach to house calls wearing booties and wiping down surfaces while practicing social distance techniques.
  • The manufacturer that offers webinar training to its customers who suddenly have more time on their hands than appointments on their schedules.
  • The trade shows or churches that are going “virtual” due to unavoidable cancellations of large gatherings.
  • The business of any kind that is utilizing its social media platforms to share encouragement or information to its followers and connections.
  • The brands who are contributing to “the war effort” just as companies did in WWII by retooling manufacturing lines or donating inventories to fighting the pandemic.

One could argue that these companies are doing whatever is necessary to keep going, and you’d be right, of course. We all understand the transactional component at play. However, marketers in a free society have a higher calling, since they occupy such a significant portion of our communication bandwidth. What they do with that, built largely on their intimate knowledge and understanding of their customers, contributes to an empathetic climate—as much as any government program can do.

The brand’s true reward will be in recovery, as the marketplace returns to normalcy. Customers will remember the little things, the smile, the greeting, the accommodation, the caring long after the product or service has been rendered. And it’s that empathetic point of contact that will cement brand loyalty as consumers, long after the crisis is over.

How will your brand be remembered?

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