Your Brand and Empathy: Why It Matters Now More Than Ever

Author: Erin Robinson
Posted: Apr 7, 2020

There has been a shift for brands to step up to the emotional plate in the past few years but there has been no greater need than now. While we collectively face a global pandemic, the humanness of our audiences has become even more human. It would be short-sided to not take a look at marketing plans and creative campaigns and see how they match up against the new and every shifting “normal.”

We have to understand that the imagery and language that might have resonated a week ago will fall flat, or worse, be offensive in light of the changing times. Big brands are responding. They are donating and shifting production to help in areas of need. They are giving not asking. Some brands have made the hard decision to pull ads that contradict the new social norms.

Other brands are taking a different approach and choosing to enter into hard conversations. According to Ace Metrix, this bold move is paying off when the rhetoric is not empty. The ad-tracking service—which scores ads using a panel of 500 viewers—in newly released findings reports that only 10 percent of its survey respondents say that it is not OK for brands to mention COVID-19, while 42 percent say “any mention is OK” and 44 percent say it “depends on the message and/or brand.” But Ace Metrix adds that it is “key for brands to show actual action, not just words” (75 percent of its respondents saying brands have a responsibility to help out during the pandemic).

Guinness was one of the first brands to respond with their “We’ll March Again” St. Patrick’s Day ad. While they don’t mention COVID-19 by name, the ad addresses the emotions that many are feeling, and manages to convey hope and unity with lines like, “When you raise a pint of Guinness, also remember to raise each other up,” and “On St. Patrick’s Day we are all Irish, but let’s not forget that every day, we are all human.” The ad also thanks first responders and denotes their pledge to give $500,000 back to communities.

Their ad hit the mark and it showed. The overall Ace Score for “St. Patrick’s Day Message” was 34% above 90-day Beer ad norms thanks to the strength of its Likeability, Relatability, and the Information delivered. Seven in ten reported increased purchase intent. 

But empathy and storytelling should not be reserved just for large scale tactics; it is something that needs to be addressed at every touchpoint along the way. The women’s sleepwear brand, Lunya, had a great email to their customers that showed great awareness of the situation while positioning themselves as human. While the stay-in-place orders that are affecting much of the nation could have been a way for them to tout their comfortable joggers, they have taken the approach of acknowledging the situation, thanking their customers and asking to stay connected. “At a time like this, we all need to laugh, share, connect, and be together . . . from a distance of about 20 feet. Take care of yourselves and each other.”

Lunya COVID-19 email newsletter

Now is a time to connect to your audience and take an honest look at the true impact words and actions can make. Read more about why brands need empathy.

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