In a world where consumers say that they wouldn’t care if 74% of the brands they use disappear and feel that less than 27% of brands improve their lives and well-being, the need to bond more closely with consumers is becoming more urgent.
For consumers, there’s a need to address a feeling of alienation and being ‘used’ by brands for mere profiteering. Increasing isolation and loneliness are perpetuating a vicious cycle of poorer mental health and depression
Even for brands, the need to devise a better way of attracting and retaining consumers is increasing.
There’s evidence of decreasing profitability for brands that don’t create deeper connections with their consumers and a mistrust and suspicion between value chain partners, e.g., retailers/distributors, that risks increasing the cost of doing business.
We believe the answer lies in looking at the relationship between humans and brands with new eyes. We believe that the answer lies in Empathy.
However, what empathy means in developing markets like India or whether it is even relevant to marketing was unclear to us. So, we set out to create a contemporary, clear, and common definition of Empathy. Further, we also understood how such a concept might fit brands.
Our study wasn’t focused on a particular brand or category. It aimed to understand the meaning and manifestation of empathy in a developing culture and whether it was an idea brands could explore.
To decode and define Empathy, we undertook experimental anthropological research. The idea was to map, measure and identify consumer experiences of empathy to evolve alternative sets of ways to discern the experiences of empathy.
The idea wasn’t to have a complex and rigidly structured conversation with consumers about the academic concept of empathy.
We did this through three modes: A) Digital Ethnography and Social Listening, B) Empathy Storytelling Sessions, and C) Expert Interviews.
A. Digital Ethnography and Social Listening
exercises to conduct a preliminary analysis using secondary data available online to nuance our understanding of consumers’ perceptions of empathy and brands.
Given the ever-increasing volume of consumers online, we could mine and analyse publicly available social media feeds (platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), video blogs, articles around the topic and especially pertaining to brands such as: Conversations and chatter about and relating to empathy – stories, incidents, their setting and contexts, associated markers, and empathy cues
Consumer reviews, preferences, and pain points relating to brands
Videos that had gone viral given the empathy quotient
B. Empathy storytelling sessions
Mini-Focus Group discussions with Religious Minorities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and Prosumers in addition to mainstream consumers (age 18-45) across the various regions of India.
These sessions were in two parts: