Empathetic marketing – could it solve marketing problems we are all facing? After all, the times are changing and for many of us, they are tough. The coronavirus has impacted our businesses and left many of us in a real dilemma about how to proceed.  Add to that the recent focus on the important Black Lives Matter movement, and stats from the Morning Consult polling which shows that there is one thing people agree on: brands should not stay silent. How can we tackle these two huge issues that are pressing right now as brands? I believe that we should absolutely look at empathetic marketing – here’s why.

Why empathetic marketing matters

Authenticity and clarity matter.  The public is asking – demanding even – from brands: what good can they do right now? Half of all adults surveyed by the Morning Consult mentioned poll said that donations to social justice groups increase brand favourability in their eyes, and flipping back to the pandemic, a crowd-sourced site is tracking how UK companies respond to Coronavirus – the good and the bad.

We spend much of our business lives looking at our own targets and problems – how could we not? However, now more than ever we need to get into our customer’s shoes (or comfy slippers given the circumstances) and we need to show we understand their problems and concerns.  They might not be interested in our webinars, our previous golden sales tactics or adverts. They feel there are more pressing issues at hand. We need to go softer in our language, our approach and practice empathetic marketing.  Perhaps you’re lowering prices or extending the grace period for payments due to the coronavirus. Maybe you are promoting equality and speaking out about injustice, or your stance on it.

Examples of brands being empathetic

You may want some examples

  • Lifestyle company Hardgraft has allowed people to pause their promotional emails during the pandemic
  • Nisolo have been starting emails asking ‘how the community is feeling’, and changing the layout of their emails to provide help and useful articles first, before showing one carefully selected product to promote, instead of 100 ‘buy now’ images that would feel out of step with the current situation.
  • TikTokcom Inc.and others have tweeted their support of black communities and for the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Solidaritea was trending – where Yorkshire Tea and PG Tips joined brands in backing BLM on social media
  • Nike changed their phrase to ‘Don’t do it’ – referencing the BLM movement and made an accompanying video

Now is the time to ask, is your current business as usual marketing message too self-serving? Is it inauthentic and not in alignment with the current environment? If yes to either or both, how can you pause or adjust?

Rhiannon Prothero, VP of EMEA marketing at ServiceNow says it best:  “We’ve always been good at saying ‘here’s what we have’, now we’re having to ask ‘what do you need?’ and ‘how can we get creative with you to solve your specific problem?’”

Make your initiatives clear, and if you’ve added an important value to your business model, or want to communicate where you stand on important matters –  let people know about it.

A survey from EY Future Consumer Index last month indicates as a result of Covid-19, 57% say they’ll spend more on those that are supporting the community, while 63% are more likely to buy from those taking measures to fight the outbreak.

When it comes to speaking out around race issues, things get tricky. As Sabrina Clarke-Okwubanego, co-founder of Niche On Demand, suggests, brands’ words will carry more weight than others, based on their past deeds.

“Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Netflix and American Express’s messages to the black community are deeply appreciated because, outside of crisis, they demonstrate consistency and acknowledgment, which makes their words now authentic and empathetic.”

As you can see, empathetic marketing is something that needs to run through your business constantly. It’s a good wake up call for everyone as we enter our ‘new normal’.

How can a brand be more empathetic

You could look at removing forms and hurdles, paywalls and barriers. Take out sign up forms, remove automated emails and tweets and offer to pause promotions. Make adverts more about them and less about you. (According to the World Advertising Research Center, emotional ads outsell informational ones by 19 percent.)

And before you start mass-producing content or grab the phone to call me to do so, remember that if you really want a brand that can weather these changes, and more will come just like the year of 2020, remember that this is all a long game and you need a plan. Is what you are writing really what they want to read, or what you think you can get away with?  Are you paying lip service to something or genuinely invested in it? This may be the year you switch from thought leadership and having ‘all the answers’ to instead offering some support, some guides, some links and other references. Your customers and prospects don’t need sales pitches in a thinly veiled disguise.  They need useful customer-centric content or to see your true colours or that you are trying.

Edgar Dale’s famous “Cone of Experience” states that we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, and 90% of what we do or personally experience. How can you give an experience, even from home you may ask? I would suggest now is the time to dig out that user-generated content plan from 2016 -now is the time to focus on the customer by allowing them to vote, review, tell their story and speak about your brand or their experiences with you.

Remember that the root word of emotion and motivate is the same, so sell or tell with feelings – you’ll see the benefits.


Your Marketing Managed, founded by Elaine Keep is a freelance marketing service for companies who don’t have the resources for a dedicated marketing manager but need some support, perhaps with copywriting, SEO, email marketing or traditional marketing.

Services include:

Email Marketing 

Content Writing 

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