More than a buzzword

Why empathetic marketing is your key to success right now (and always)

You have heard the old adage about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. To be successful, marketers do not have to walk in their customers’ shoes. They just have to put them on. Empathetic marketing may be a buzzword now, but it has always been the key to acquiring and retaining loyal, satisfied customers. It revolves entirely around the customer journey.

Do you know what experience your customers have with your brand? The customer journey is every interaction a customer has with your brand from first blush to brand evangelist. It is the Instagram post they see that makes them want to click to learn more.

It is the Facebook Live video they tune in to and find themselves hooked on. It is wandering into your storefront and getting happily lost in the experience of finding something unique that makes them or someone they care about feel special.

It is every touchpoint you have with your customers from advertising to purchase consideration to fulfillment to billing and service after the sale. Empathetic marketing seeks to understand the customer journey and optimize it for the customer’s wants, needs, interests and motivations.

Practicing empathy in marketing is also essential to forming an emotional connection with customers, which is critical to long term success.

Connecting with customers is harder today
Reeling from a global pandemic, competition is fierce in every sector, but especially in retail markets. Supply chain disruption, economic upheaval and a demand for safety and health at every checkpoint along the buyer journey has made operating at a profit exceedingly difficult for most, if not all, retailers.

As in-person avenues are whittled away, retailers are challenged to find new ways to form emotional connections with consumers. Although it may require innovation, consumers desire to establish relationships with brands, perhaps more, than before.

Investing in good customer journey research that reveals what your customers actually experience with your brand provides the insight you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

 As we reel from the effects of a world staggering beneath the strain of COVID-19, people crave a closeness many cannot enjoy today. Virtual connections are filling the void left by a lack of physical closeness. Brands capable of connecting in this new virtual medium are snagging what disposal income people have to spend.

Forming emotional connections is not magic. It is science.

Investing in good customer journey research that reveals what your customers actually experience with your brand provides the insight you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Surveys of current customers, lookalike audiences, sales members and back office staff are all important as they will reveal what gaps exist between what you think your customers think of your brand and what they actually do.

Loyalty will be for sale
The past year has been a “make it or break it” time for many businesses. In 2021, that is all the more true. It will be critical to realize that people will still spend money, even if they have less of it, they will be hunting for the best ways to invest their discretionary income.

Empathy can help you be the brand of choice for your customers.

How do your customers want to shop for gifts this year?

Where do they want to shop?

The key to empathetic marketing is to ask all of those questions about your customer and not yourself.

 How can they most effectively see, snag and savor your special wares?

How do they want to pay, ship and receive the items you sell?

When they have an issue, how do they want to be able to connect with your brand for understanding and resolution?

The key to empathetic marketing is to ask all of those questions about your customer and not yourself. Instead of asking how you want to market, sell, shop and ship, put your customers at the center of that equation.

Then, organize your marketing and operations around them. When you begin to think and feel like your customers, you will find yourself attracting many more of them to your brand.


A nationally-recognized branding and marketing thought leader, Mary Ann O'Brien, founder and CEO of OBI Creative, has been entrusted by some of the most successful brands in the world to help steer their strategic marketing and communication direction. Over the years, she has led national and global strategic initiatives for Intel, Microsoft, Sony, Gateway, Stericycle, Viewsonic, Creighton Heider College of Business, Advance Auto Parts, Cobalt (formerly known as SAC Federal Credit Union), Borsheims Fine Jewelry, Nebraska Crossing Outlets, Guide One, Olsson, Travel and Transport, Delta Dental, Mutual of Omaha Bank, AgVentures and Miller Electric, among others. For more information, visit www.obicreative.com.


Your 7-step guide to emphatic marketing

  1. Empathize with your customer’s experience by going into their world to understand
  2. Think like your clients when they set out to solve a problem and discover each step they may take to solve it.
  3. Look for ways you can help your customers make their lives better
  4. Provide your customers with what they want by understanding what motivates them.
  5. Help your clients identify and solve problems.
  6. Give customers content and expertise that helps them get clarity
  7. Empower employees who directly touch customers with the resources, training, and tools to help them.

Source: markempa