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4 Ways Great Marketers Show Empathy

Anyone who knows me in real life, knows I am a huge fan of Brené Brown. That woman drops more truth bombs than confetti on New Year’s Eve, and all with that smooth Texas accent. I recently came across an animated short created by RSA illustrating one of her talks on empathy.

In it, she cites Theresa Wiseman, a nursing scholar, who has researched diverse professions where empathy is essential. Wiseman came up with 4 characteristics of empathy, and what immediately grabbed my attention was how these 4 traits are also vital parts of great marketing. Whether you are marketing B2B, B2C, or some other combination, you should view all your work through the lens of these 4 criteria.

See the World as Others See It

As a marketer, it doesn’t actually matter what your view of the universe is. It is your job to stand in the shoes of your target persona and see the world the way they do. This requires a shift in perspective, which can be really challenging. You need to ask yourself questions like what motivates them, what scares them, and what challenges are weighing them down? Think about how they are experiencing the world, and if you’re not sure, go talk to them. Do focus groups, surveys, or interviews. Find out what their view of the world is because it will make your marketing more effective and authentic.


Once you are seeing the world from the eyes of your customer, it’s time to set aside judgment. This one is really hard because as humans we are wired to judge everything around us. It’s actually a survival instinct, but in the marketing world it’s a fatal flaw. If you want to be the best marketer you can, it’s crucial to restrain that instinct and suspend your personal views. In order to feel with your target persona – the definition of empathy – you can’t be wagging a finger. You must approach their worldview with an open mind and heart. Your opinion literally doesn’t matter, and it will only get in the way of you doing your job the best you can. How does judgment sometimes show up in marketing? Condescension, negging, and preaching. Language that falls into these categories should be avoided at all costs.

Understanding Another’s Feelings

As you can see, these characteristics of empathy build upon one another. You’ve stood in your customers shoes. You’ve set aside your own judgment of how they encounter the world, and now it’s time to apply understanding. This means digging deep and getting uncomfortable. Your target persona may be experiencing pain, fear, doubt, insecurity, or even loneliness. These are emotions that are not pleasant, and a willingness on your part to sit with those feelings is the hardest part of being a good marketer. But if you have the stomach for it, it will truly set you apart. This is what will enable the authenticity of your marketing to shine. When you genuinely understand the feelings of others, that is where connection happens.

Communicate the Understanding

That connection is forged through communication. All the previous steps make it possible for you to let your customer or target persona know that you genuinely, authentically understand what they are experiencing, and they are not alone. This should inform everything from the web copy you write to the video content you design. Whether it’s choosing the right speaking topic for a conference or developing the theme for a customer testimonial, your guiding principle needs to be the clear, non-judgmental expression of your target persona’s worldview. As a marketer, nothing is more thrilling than to learn that the material you are putting out is landing with impact so that your audience sees themself in it.


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