Empathy in Marketing: Customer Insights for Businesses on a Budget

March 1, 2021

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Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

No aspect of marketing starts with the product. It all begins with the customer. Who is your customer defines everything from what kind of product innovation you pursue to how you communicate with them.

Marketing begins with the customer

What is Empathy? Here is a simple guide.  

  • Apathy – I don’t care how you feel.

We are the best at what we do, here are all the benefits for you. Choose us.

  • Sympathy – I understand how you feel.

We understand how you feel in this time of uncertainty. We’re here to help.

  • Empathy – I feel how you feel.

We are in the same boat; we know exactly how you feel. Be cautious, stay safe. Use your money wisely. And if you’re looking to spend on ____, choose us.

According to an analysis by the World Advertising Research Center, emotional ads outsell informational ones by 19 percent. So there is value in bringing empathy front and center in your communication as well as the product development.

First, let us understand the best way to phrase a consumer insight, which, in turn, can serve as the guideline to brand positioning.


“I do ______________________ (action performed) but _________________________ (issue faced) because _____________________ (underlying reason).”


“Our product helps _____________(target customer) do ____________ (perform action) by ___________ (reason to believe) ensuring ___________________ (issue resolved). ”

So, what’s stopping us? As small businesses, it is not easy to bring in that customer perspective.  The simple way to get there is through research. Traditional Research, however, can sometimes get expensive and is usually a longer process.

However, there are some easy solutions to execute.

1. Surveys:

Use your social media handles to talk to your customers. Conduct one-question surveys via your stories.

Offer free giveaways for virtual survey completion.

2. Customer Feedback:

Get insights from community management on social media platform.

Speak on the phone or communicate via email with loyal customers. There is power in personal communication.

Read customer reviews on eCommerce sites to understand their pain points.

3. Customer Insights:

Virtual focus groups can help validate insights and understand the customer’s thoughts, actions, and feelings further. Make sure that the people responsible for product development, marketing and sales are present. Some questions to ask are below.

  • How do they think about their fears and hopes?
  • What do they hear when other people use your product?
  • What do they see when they use your product? What is the environment?
  • What do they say or feel when using your product, whether in private or public?
  • What are their pain points when using your product?
  • Is this a positive or a painful experience for them?
  • What does a typical day look like in their world?
  • Do they hear positive feedback about your company from external sources?
  • What do they hope to gain from using your product?
  • Has your customer repeated quotes or defining words?

4. Product Development & Communication Ideas:

With internal stakeholders, conduct brainstorming sessions to identify potential ways to work with the customer thoughts, actions, feelings to build innovations or communications strategies.

When the final ideas are built, keeping customers at the center, some amazing executions can occur.

Here are a few timeless examples of empathy in marketing in practice.

P&G Thank You Moms - Olympics Ad Campaign
Dove Real Beauty Campaigns
AirBnB: Go Near Campaign
Written by Isha Vyas
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