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Successful brands don't just sell products or services—they build relationships. And the best way to build strong relationships?


Customers today don't want just a transactional exchange with a brand—they're looking for a deeper connection. They want to know that brands "get them," and empathetic marketing is the key to building that rapport. Fifty-five percent of customers report they trust companies less now, so it's never been more important for brands to focus on developing solid relationships with their customers.

Empathy is at the core of building brand loyalty.

So, how does empathy lead to brand loyalty?

It's simple, really, when you think about it: customers are more likely to trust brands that understand them, empathize with them, and meet their needs. When you tap into the power of empathy marketing, your message is more likely to register with your customers, increasing the chances they will take action. In short, empathetic marketing is really just about listening to your customers, understanding their lives, and developing your messaging around that.

But first, let's walk through what you can expect from highlighting empathy in your marketing and how to get started.

What is empathetic marketing?

Empathetic marketing (also called empathy-based marketing) is an approach that focuses on understanding the point of view of the customer, including their feelings, emotions, and motivations.

Empathy-centered marketing also involves these areas.

  • Talking to customers

  • Listening to their thoughts and perspectives

  • Watching how they interact with your brand

This deep understanding of the customer's needs and experience allows you to better meet them where they are––and craft messaging that really hits home.

When you focus on empathetic marketing, you're not just talking to your customer base or trying to sell them something—you're actually listening to them and engaging in a conversation. You're letting your customers know that you're interested in getting to know them as individual people, not just as a target market. This two-way dialogue is essential to building trust and rapport with your customers.

gen z using their cell phone

Why should brands use empathy in marketing?

According to a recent study by PWC, 64% of U.S. consumers and 59% of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of the customer experience. The online shopping experience can lead customers to feel disconnected from a brand. Brands that show empathy in their marketing can stand out in the crowd with personalized customer experiences that view the customer as more than a transaction but instead as an actual person.

Deep down, we all want to be seen and heard—and your customers are no different. Brands that focus on empathy and compassion send the message that they see and identify with their customers. This understanding builds trust between the customer and brand, which is essential for developing a long-lasting relationship.

In fact, showcasing empathy can help you build brand loyalty by adding value in these areas.

  • Increasing customer satisfaction

  • Empowering your target audience to feel and relate to your brand

  • Deepening customer relationships

Customers today are bombarded with marketing messages—they can see right through inauthentic or salesy ones. This is where empathy marketing can help you create content that cuts through the noise. Getting to know your customers and developing products that consider their needs can help you create a brand they can genuinely connect with.

Empathy in Practice

Genuine connection is at the heart of empathetic marketing, and some brands do this extremely well. Consider how these companies connect with their customers on an emotional level.

Allbirds—Empathy Marketing Begins with Listening

Allbirds has built a booming shoe business by leveraging the direct-to-consumer business model and focusing on sustainable materials––but that's not all. The brand has also won over customers by empathizing with their needs and pain points. By connecting with their customers in this way, Allbirds are able to design products that customers want in the most sustainable way possible.

Allbirds has built customer loyalty through transparency about their materials and manufacturing process and struck an empathetic tone with consumers by showing their support through various campaigns. One example is their "We're Better Together" program in 2020. This program was launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in response to their customers’ desire (many of whom were isolating at home) to help front-line workers. "We're Better Together" allowed customers to buy one pair of shoes and donate a new pair of shoes to a healthcare worker. The program has supplied over 50,000 pairs of shoes to front-line workers.

In a time when people are looking to support sustainable brands, Allbirds is leading the pack with a brand reputation built on empathy.

consumer interacting with brands while shopping

OXO—Empathy in Product Design & Marketing

Since its founding in 1990, home goods company OXO has been empathy-first in its product design and messaging. They conduct extensive research to understand how people interact with their products—and they use that information to design products that make everyday tasks easier. Behind every spoon or measuring cup, they think: How does this kitchen tool make the customer feel?

For example, OXO's "Good Grips" handles are designed to be comfortable for people with arthritis to hold. The handles are also soft, so customers don't have to worry about them slipping out of their hands while they're scrubbing dishes. This empathetic design makes it easy for people with different abilities to use their products and feel confident in the kitchen.

OXO marketing is guided by letting the products showcase the empathetic brand story. When it comes to messaging, the OXO marketing team leverages compassion to communicate how the product functions and how this can help people. Karen Schnelwar, VP of Global Brand Strategy, stated, "When you ask about how we get empathy into our communications, part of it is because we're always communicating about our tools that have empathy baked into the inspiration and the design for the brand in general."

An empathy marketing strategy can be a powerful tool to help brands connect with their customers on a deeper level. By investing in understanding their needs and desires, brands can build trust—and create loyal customers.

close up of a consumer

Actionable Steps to Introduce Empathy Into Your Marketing

Infusing your marketing with empathy doesn't have to be complicated, but it does require an approach centered on the customer's interests and solving their problems.

Don't know where to start?

Here's how you can infuse empathetic marketing into your brand strategy.

01—Lead with compassion.

Make sure your team shows compassion at every customer touchpoint, from your website to social media to in-person interactions. This strategy could be as simple as using empathetic language in your marketing copy or supporting causes that resonate with your customers. Don't just put on a happy face though, be authentic.

02—Listen to your customers.

Have one-on-one conversations, send out surveys, conduct diary studies, or hold focus groups to better understand how they feel about your brand, their needs, and how you can better meet them. If you don’t have the in-house expertise to do this, outsource it.

03—Put yourself in your customer's shoes.

This may seem obvious, but it's essential. Take the time to understand your customers' feelings and what they need from your brand. This change of perspective will help you remove any bias in your marketing strategy and ensure you're creating content, products, and services they'll love.

04—Create a brand narrative that connects on the individual level.

Use authentic storytelling to connect with your audience emotionally. Think of an ad or content that made you emotional, or something that you couldn't wait to share. Often, these pieces connect with us on an empathetic level. As long as your intentions are pure and you're not overselling, your customers want a brand story that speaks to them.

05—Keep it real.

Be open and honest with your customers at all times. Imperfection is human, and by being transparent, you create a sense of trust. Customers are looking for brands that are "just like them," so let them know it's okay not to be perfect. Build a relationship that feels like a two-way conversation, not a one-sided pitch.

graphic showing the 5 steps to introduce empathetic marketing

These ways to build empathy can help you get started. But remember, the goal is to create a long-term empathetic marketing strategy that's integrated into your brand, not just a one-off compassionate campaign. So find ways to make empathy a part of your brand's DNA.

Ready to give empathy a chance?

Seventy-three percent of people point to customer experience as a critical factor in their purchasing decisions. So, if you want your customers to stick around, you need to connect with them. And a customer journey rooted in empathy can build positive customer experiences that lead to lifelong brand loyalty.

But, before you can lead with empathy, you need to understand where your customers are at. At Rebel, we use research and strategy to do just that. We analyze consumer journeys to find insights in places you wouldn't expect—to create marketing experiences your customers will love. Let's go there.