What is empathy marketing and how to use It?

October 4, 2021

Empathy. Such a wonderful word and feeling. Most of us have felt it in our lives at some point. How does it fit in the world of marketing? Well, very simple. Advertisements can lead to people feeling emphatic about something. It can be to bring awareness of a social cause or product made by a social enterprise – emotions work just as well. In this article, I am going to talk about empathy marketing and my experience building a startup around it. 

Empathy marketing – how it works? 

So, what exactly is empathy marketing? This means looking at things from the point of view of your customer, or actually – becoming the customer yourself. In the cases where you are an entrepreneur that discovered a business niche by solving a problem you and others have, it is relatively easy. That is because you as a person are part of the target group you want to sell to and you know how to communicate to them. 

Once you put yourself in the shoes of the customer, you will be able to understand what their needs are and make certain changes to adapt to them. It sounds very easy and simple. But as you probably know, simple things are the hardest to implement.  

Good practices in empathy marketing

When we look at ads and marketing strategies that do it the right way, we can turn our eyes to the East. A lot of Asian companies and agencies are using empathy marketing in their approach. According to moz.com, there are several ways to use empathy marketing right and they include understanding the problems of your target audience, addressing them, and using educational approaches and moments from regular life in the campaigns. And those are all things that advertising companies in Asia do great. Just take a look at this video: 


The MetLife commercial addresses challenges, issues, and fears of almost any parent and their end goal – to provide the best for their children. And hoping that what you are doing is enough. Even if people don’t have children, they can relate and feel emphatic about the parents that are in the shoes of the main character of the storyline in the ad. And if you think about it, all the checkboxes for great empathy marketing are covered. 

The ad is connecting to the needs of the target audience, there is the educational message and the whole thing is just an ordinary everyday life story that a lot of people go or have gone through at some point in their lives. And the emotional kick is there as well. 

What can empathy marketing achieve? 

Empathy marketing is about provoking emotions. And you can get to the feelings of your customers. However, there is one very important question – are those feelings going to result in any action? And what are you hoping to achieve? In many cases, empathy marketing will help you create something that will go viral – a video or other sort of visual. However, it rarely will lead to an increase in sales. 

Empathy marketing can be used to get people to be more aware of a problem related to a social cause. A good example of that is campaigns related to domestic abuse – the video BEAT by FineActs in Bulgaria is an amazing example: 

BEAT. from Fine Acts on Vimeo.

As powerful as it can be, sometimes it doesn’t help you achieve the end goal. Also in Bulgaria in 2016 there was a campaign to inspire people to buy hand-made products from elderly people in the country. There was a lot of buzz on the subject but very few sales. The reason? 

The creators of the social movement provoked pity in the people. And pity is a powerful emotion. But it doesn’t get people to buy. 

The curious case of “Buy from Grandma” 

Before I got into copywriting, I had some experience in the field of e-commerce. One of my startup projects was called “Buy from Grandma”. The idea was simple – we hired elderly women to knit woolen slippers and sold them. We divided the profits 50/50 with the old people that needed money while covering all expenses for product, materials, and delivery. 

The difference between this and the campaign mentioned above? We went after different emotions. 

We managed to market the hand-made slippers as a thing made with love like a grandmother would knit such for her grandchildren. And we picked the right timing – Christmas. Our marketing message was – a gift made with lots of love, that also contributes to a social cause. And it worked like a charm. We sold our products within days with almost no budget (there was attention from regional and national media). 

And the only difference in the approach was the emotion we managed to provoke in people. We knew that nostalgia and love will be a driving force for purchase. And the social benefit was there, but not as the main thing. More like the cherry on top.

Can empathy marketing work for you?

Empathy marketing is a concept that can be applied to almost any business out there. The principles are clear, but the planning and execution are where things get slippery. To achieve results, you need to have a clear vision of what you want. The best way is to turn to professionals that can help you. If you want to be successful in implementing empathy marketing in your strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

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