Content marketing is not about recklessly slinging blogs and ads at your audience; it’s about building a connection through thoughtful content that resonates with your followers. So how do you relate with your customers during a pandemic? Although it might seem like a hefty task, the one thing that your marketing needs to break through the chatter and unite your audience with your brand right now is empathy.

PepsiCo empathy study

PepsiCo released results of a study on May 14th surrounding empathy and the pandemic. PepsiCo and Ipsos polled more than 5,000 Americans, aged 16 and older, for the research during two periods: 3,118 from March 10-13 and 2,084 from May 1-5.

  • Here are their findings:
  • 4 out of 5 participants said empathy has become more important due to the pandemic
  • 94% of Americans say that empathy is important in general
  • 56% participants said that brands using their marketing to address the pandemic is an act of empathy
  • The top 5 ways consumers say brands can be empathetic are:
    • treating people with respect (52%)
    • treating people like human beings (50%)
    • listening to people (43%)
    • caring about people (41%)
    • acknowledging when the brand is wrong (37%)
  • According to the survey, the most valued form of brand empathy was responding to workers and the community first
  • 86% of respondents said that it’s “critical” for brands to show empathy now if they want to grow loyalty
  • 2 out of 3 consumers said that brands’ actions during the pandemic will influence how they engage with those brands in the future
  • 86% of those surveyed said it’s important for brands to help lift spirits, 74% said it’s important for brands to create a moment of escapism, and 73% said it’s important for brands to offer an outlet for entertainment

Understand your audience

Numbers and data aside, you can’t be empathetic if you don’t know how your potential audience might be feeling or what they could be thinking or wanting. You must put yourself in your followers’ shoes and ask all of the right questions. Moms, leaders, healthcare professionals, grandparents, entrepreneurs, bartenders, and teenagers all have a separate set of challenges, equally as important. What is your specific audience dealing with right now? What are their struggles and what are their bright spots? What do they want to hear from you right now? Make sure that you don’t assume that because you’re a mom that you have the same thoughts as another mom. It might take some research to figure out exactly what your followers are going through and what they are needing from your company right now.

It’s not about pleasing everyone

Efficient content marketing is never about pleasing everyone. You have to work on finding your niche and directing your content at a specific, targeted group that will find your brand relevant and worthwhile. If you cast too wide of a net by trying to create content that will appeal to a broader audience, you will actually end up diluting your message and not speaking directly to anyone. Find that pocket and operate within those parameters so that your output is incredibly relevant and meaningful, providing purpose to your followers. Although it might sound harsh, if others don’t find it interesting, there are other brands to follow that might better match their needs. Business is business, and you will never be successful trying to please everyone.

Shift your messaging

The stats have shown that your audience is craving empathetic content. How cringeworthy is it when you see a tv commercial about traveling or partying with friends? We are in a sensitive time, and although your messaging doesn’t have to always directly speak to the pandemic, it must connect with the people who are living in the pandemic. Empathy is always a part of content marketing, but now more than ever, your consumers are really going to notice what content you put out there during this time. Mary Beech, principal at MRB Brand Consulting and former CMO of Kate Spade, says that “what you are creating, marketing and ultimately selling is but one piece of your customer’s life as a human on Earth. One very small piece. And if we aren’t keeping in mind their full journey, including their emotional, mental, social and physical needs—as well as the challenges and joys they are facing—we cannot do our jobs well.”

Don’t be obvious

This is where your creative team comes into play. Being empathetic doesn’t mean creating content that is obviously empathetic. Highly creative content, that is empathetic in nature, will give off all of those good vibes without screaming, “Our company is empathetic!” The more obvious your efforts toward empathy are, the less authentic it might seem to your followers. Find ways that your content can relate to your consumers’ emotions without outright saying exactly that. It’s not about being coy or sneaky, it’s about treating your audience like humans and not wallets, and letting the content speak for itself without having to explain it in a showcase. Play with your design and your messaging so that you and your audience feel good about what your content says.

There’s not one way to do it

There is no secret recipe to creating empathetic content for your audience or acting in an empathic manner toward consumers and employees. Consider the wall of lost gloves at the Oxo offices in New York City. It reminds employees that they’re designing products for all of the different hands that would wear these different gloves. Instead of writing “empathy” on the wall, they created an art piece that symbolizes them putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, or someone else’s gloves. The founding story of Oxo is actually based on empathy, as the founder started his venture when he saw his wife struggling with a vegetable peeler due to her arthritis. Your company is unique, it has a special story, and it uses a powerful voice, just like Oxo. There are many paths to empathetic content; it’s up to your brand to find which path is meant for your company and its loyal audience.

According to the American Marketing Association, consumers will “sacrifice meaning for money.” Meaning is important and consumers will often pay more for a product or service if they connect better with the brand. Make empathetic content a priority for your company so that your customers feel valued and your business continues toward success, with a loyal band of followers at your side.

Need help with empathetic content? Contact us at Lillian James Creative so we can create content for you that empathizes with your target audience.

Like what you’ve read? Want to share similar content with your organization at your next event? Aaron Fulk, CEO of Lillian James Creative, has graced many stages and speaks about finding your creativity, storytelling, personal branding, and more. Book her for your next event!