Empathetic Brands? I Feel You.
March 8, 2019
The talk of trends permeates every corner of SXSW. Alongside the obvious move to robotics and AI, and a serious focus on diversity and inclusion at SXSW (which I’ll discuss in another post), one trend stood out to me in Rohit Bhargava’s session on 7 non-obvious trends: empathy.
In his examples, brands were standing out and making a difference in consumers’ lives in a proactive way. One example was a UK supermarket that opens an hour earlier with a “quiet hour” for autistic shoppers. Many of us are aware of Target’s adaptive clothing for children with special needs. His point is that these brands go well beyond being “ethical” – sourcing things sustainably, having a sound social impact program, and becoming good stewards of humanity. These brands actually take on the emotional point of view of their consumer, and build their business around it.
Whenever I hear the idea that something is a trend, I always wonder if that’s a statement of opinion or fact. Is there data that supports the idea that it is a trend? I wanted to look at that deeper and see if there is buzz or conversation around empathetic brands.
It appears that it’s very difficult to track. Looking at the search landscape for ethical brands shows that it’s a well-defined space. 461 million results, 763 related keywords.
Taking this to the empathetic step, there is much less certainty. Even while discussing how to examine it, our team couldn’t come up with a common term or phrase. Was it empathy? Was it accessibility? Inclusive? There didn’t seem to be a common feeling about what you’d call it. The search data bore this out – we couldn’t even find any data on the idea of an empathetic brand.
The net result of this is that the trend is tough to quantify.
However, in the end it doesn’t really matter. Looking at the empathetic brand trend ignores that in reality, it’s just good business. A brand that approaches their value, products and service from the customer’s point of view, and considers all consumers is going to have the best market potential. They’re going to create a lasting value not only from a brand reputation standpoint, but in terms of maximizing their market.
For that reason, empathetic brands are a trend if for no other reason than they will be more successful.