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How Inclusive Marketing Can Build Empathy

Date: August 18, 2020 • Category: Marketing • By: Joanne Choi

You’ve probably heard before that great brands thrive from particular qualities, such as empathy. This isn’t a particularly new concept in marketing – and for a good reason. Aside from the numbers and metrics, we believe that empathy should remain pivotal to the development of marketing campaigns because it naturally forges the path for authentic human connection. Imbuing empathy into your content that isn’t too forced or inauthentic can strike just the right chord with your audiences.

Now more than before, customers expect businesses to consider the emotional investment of their purchases. Rather than making solely transactional, detached decisions, customers are increasingly looking to build personal relationships with the companies they choose to buy from. This is why knowing your customers well and connecting with them on a human level becomes critical when approaching content from an empathetic stance. Especially now that we’re living and working in a world that’s increasingly, and suddenly, “digital only,” the importance of making human-to-human bonds can’t be ignored.

Essentially, empathy can be gained by engaging with your audiences and listening to their stories. Like any human relationship, a meaningful connection is created and strengthened by embarking on a shared journey with your audiences. As marketers, we should be careful not to focus on merely building buy-my-stuff relationships, but rather authentic connections based on mutual understanding. Which, perhaps, is easier said than done.

Tailor Your Strategy To Your Audience

People change, audiences always evolve. Marketers need to stay well-attuned to the ebbs and flows of these constant undulations, and staying open-minded to nuances in personal beliefs or cultural identities is imperative to have any sort of dialogue with your audiences. Modifying your strategy to evolve with these changes can keep you from crafting content that is tone-deaf, insensitive, or simply out-of-fit with the current social sentiment.

As you decide to adjust your strategy, ask yourself these essential questions: How have your audiences’ priorities, viewpoints, or preferences changed? What are the new challenges they’re experiencing on a regular basis? What types of content do your audiences want to consume and on what topics?

To learn what your audiences can’t stop talking about, use tools such as social media listening and community management. Analyze the performance of specific posts to determine which topics are generating the most buzz, reactions, and even push-back from your audiences. Discover what topics will get the conversation started, and fuel the momentum by tailoring content to address your audience’s specific questions and preferences.

A little personalization can go a long way, boosting your campaign’s performance–and perhaps more importantly, giving you the opportunity to forge lasting connections with your audiences, who will notice that the content is more relevant.

The Importance of Empathy in Inclusive Marketing

Empathetic marketing is especially critical during emotionally turbulent times. While they may not convey it, audiences want their needs, pains, and beliefs to be fully acknowledged and understood, especially amidst mass confusion or turmoil.

Systemic racism is an ongoing pandemic, even described as a public health crisis by medical professionals. As digital marketers, we can be unaware of the role we have in shifting the currents of the global conversation. We have the unique capability to facilitate conversations of learning and unlearning, asking and reconsidering, planning and eventually acting. Now is the time to listen to what our audiences are saying (and even hear what they don’t say), knowing that starting challenging conversations is almost always better than not speaking at all.

As those who help shape the voice of others, we can contribute to a culture of inclusion in our field by representing diverse viewpoints and choosing to be inclusive of less visible voices to evade the “danger of the single story”. As progressive marketers, our goal is to create content that will resonate with all audiences and break down barriers that divide, rather than unite.

Developing genuinely inclusive, diverse content that leaves a lasting impression might require more foresight and sensitivity, as it’s the result of forming a deeper, more personal connection with your audience. This definition from Salesforce hits the mark brilliantly: “Inclusive marketing can elevate the stories and voices of people that have been typically marginalized or underrepresented, deepen connections with customers, and even influence positive social change.”

To put it succinctly, marketers, we can do better. Our campaigns carry more weight than we think, so please do not underestimate the impact of your platforms and the influence that they can have on your audience’s lives.

We can always work towards developing content that’s purposefully inclusive of the diverse voices of underrepresented audiences, such as those who have been traditionally excluded and seldom heard in your profession. Without taking deliberate action, we only exacerbate the problem.

We’re hoping that this is a conversation that doesn’t end in a matter of days, weeks, or even years. Our dedication to increasing inclusion and diversity is hardly only relevant in the present moment. Rather, we can make it our prerogative to continually sustain the conversation until the global crisis of systemic racism is finally resolved – for good.


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