Moving On from ROI to ROE – A Return On Empathy
By Mark Ingwer for MediaPost

Profitability is more than sales figures. A bold statement Dr. Ingwer proves true as he examines the role of psychology and emotion in consumer-brand relationships. The idea of return on empathy – ROE – is a compelling theory and, I feel, a logical one. We acknowledge the strong impact emotion has on sales, but companies often fail to understand the emotional motivations and needs of customers. When we invest the time and effort to listen, when we try to understand our customers, we create powerful connections. And connecting is how we stay relevant in an increasingly noisy world.

As we strive to connect we need to remember people are complex and rarely say what they think. Understanding a customer’s needs requires more than analysis of data. Writes Ingwer:

“When businesses look beyond the rational data and into the meaning behind their customers’ feelings, and behaviors, they will recognize the human needs that drive decision making.”

For example, in a study for an airline, Dr. Ingwer found control fuels our motivations and our inability to influence the outcome of an event is stressful. The obvious solution seems to be advertising consumers’ ability to take control of their travel experience. Big mistake. People expect a lack of control when flying and it’s a turnoff to be told they have control, since it’s untrue. Offering a degree of control by providing “choices” is actually more desirable. The airline was able to offer new services like priority boarding or extra legroom for fees the customer was willing to pay to control their experience.

I caution brands that use insights just to make money and don’t take the next step to building relationships. Consumers are savvy and know when they’re being taken advantage of. While they may be willing to pay a little extra for small comforts, nothing angers consumers more than being nick and dimed. Southwest has built successful campaigns about ridiculous extra fees and leveraged itself as a brand that listens.

If you aren’t genuine in your communications or actions, psychological insights can’t help you. People know when a company is merely pretending. Brands must go beyond just saying they care and prove that they do. You trust a person who is true to his word; consumers feel the same way about companies.

Unilever unveils biggest consumer facing brand campaign
By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith for Marketing Magazine

On Universal Children’s Day, Unilever launched “Project Sunlight” – a campaign focused on changing consumer attitudes and behavior towards sustainability. Targeted first are five core markets: the US, UK, Brazil, India, and Indonesia. The global engagement is primarily digital, with a focus on social.

Unilever’s emotional commitment to consumers is more than a beautiful video and uplifting soundtrack, it’s the brand’s promise and tangible results that are the real stars. The website shares stories, encouraging messaging, and links for donations along with real examples of how Unilever makes a difference. Notes Eleftheriou-Smith:

“[Unilever] wanted to reframe the conversation around sustainability from what has been dominated by an apocalyptic view of the future, to use technology, communication and collaboration to tackle more of the issues than ever before.”

The brand’s goals are to put content out there, actively listen to people, and encourage consumers to engage on a personal level. Obviously Unilever wants to sell more products as well, but that is a secondary objective to creating relationships. The priority of connection can only help increase profits.

The Future of Branding Is Creating Real Connections Between Consumers And Products
By Rita J. King for Fast Company

King compares the storytelling structure of the hero’s journey to a consumer’s real life and concludes a brand’s role is not as a central character but a helpful enabler. We should figure out what story consumers are trying to tell and how we can help them on their journeys. Says King:

“Brands that are focused on getting us places and connecting us to others, essentially offering sustenance, transportation and intelligence, are the brands of the future.”

Instead of sticking with what we know, let’s put the customer in control and build intelligent connections. Mobile is a big part of evolving our place in consumers’ stories. Instead of attempting to recreate the last medium’s successes, we should push ourselves to explore the limits of the new mediums.

Teen idols, apps: New York store windows want to ‘retailtain’ you
By Marina Lopes for Reuters

These lessons aren’t just for digital engagement. Brick and mortar locations still serve an important role in fostering relationships. New York City stores are proving physicality can be its own special and exclusive experience with the annual holiday window displays. By creating a spectacle that makes the moment memorable, retailers generate buzz. The annual unveiling becomes a holiday tradition and emotionally engages with consumers of all ages. Holiday windows connect with older consumers through nostalgia and attract younger crowds with popular music artists. Notes Lopes:

“This year Fifth Harmony, a sugary-sweet all-girl band, did the honors for Lord & Taylor. They could barely be heard above the shrieks of teenage girls, many drawn to the store for the first time by their celebrity idols.”

The experience, though viewable via YouTube, is best experienced in real life, luring consumers away from online shopping for a little while. Though there is likely to be little conversion from the displays, they do heavily increase traffic. Brick and mortar stores still generate significant sales: Saks Fifth Avenue’s Manhattan store accounts for 20% of the chain’s entire sales. And the cost for window displays is a fraction of what the retailer spends on TV ads.

This year, Saks did the best job of bridging the gap between online shipping and in-store retail experience with an omnichannel approach. Using social media, Saks pushed their YouTube video of the yeti rumored to live on the roof of the store. The yeti made another appearance in the actual displays and lives online on the website, encouraging customers to get their own yeti name and make a snowflake. With an app, spectators flick customized snowflakes onto the display windows.

I believe psychological insights can only take brands so far. Ultimately the solution is simple: empathic listening. Creative and innovative approaches help spice up relationships with consumers and keep it interesting. However, it all leads to giving the consumer what they want and letting them star in and direct the story.

2 Responses to “Return on empathy: Rational and irrational measures of success”

  1. Yes, Yes, 1000 times YES! We use the term ‘Conversations, not clicks’ when we talk to our clients about the true impact of social content. I think it goes double (or more) for B2B companies that have a much longer selling cycle and one that relies on relationships for success.

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