If you try to think of a celebrity who is humble and shows empathy towards their fans, Snoop Dogg is perhaps not the most obvious example that springs to mind.
However, Frank Cooper, the CMO & Chief Creative Officer at Buzzfeed, recently explained how the rapper’s humility has been a great source of inspiration to the brand.
When previously asked how he maintains a strong relationship with his fans, Snoop said that the key is not to view them from on top of a celebrity pedestal, but rather, to lift them up to join him.
At the recent IAB Digital Upfronts event, I heard how this sense of empathy – the ability to step into the shoes of the audience – is at the core of Buzzfeed’s strategy.
Here’s a summary of the talk, with further insight into how the brand uses this core emotion to drive its content.
A brand that loves you
Buzzfeed believes that content created by brands can be just as meaningful as that found on any platform.
Likewise, it can also be just as relevant and enjoyable to the person that is consuming it.
However, in order to get a consumer to connect, or to think ‘I love that brand’ – they need to first feel as if the brand loves them.
According to Frank, this is done through empathy – or the ‘the ultimate brand-building super power’ as he called it.
Buzzfeed is built with empathy
By feeling empathy with the audience, Buzzfeed is able to create content that helps people connect on a personal level.
A great example of this is its true crime series, Buzzfeed Unsolved.
Unlike shows like Serial or Making a Murderer, which were created from the point of view of the expert, Unsolved is created from the perspective of the viewer.
The stars of the show are the fans themselves, and by including both a sceptical opinion and a conspiracy theorist, the majority of people watching are also able to relate.
Similarly, Buzzfeed’s new food platform, Proper Tasty, is a world away from the idealised view of cooking that we see on television shows or films.
Instead of the quest for the perfect meal, Proper Tasty aims to create relevant and realistic recipes for everyday people and their friends.
In other words, it uses food as the connector – not the spectacle.
Another example of Buzzfeed using empathy to create a connection is the series ‘Weird things that couples fight about’.
The video garnered a huge response, but this was not necessarily due to its relevancy – it did not set out to depict all relationships.
Instead, what it aimed to to do was create a sense of intimacy with the viewer.
Essentially, it sparked a conversation, giving people the permission to talk about their own relationships, and encouraging them to share the video in response.
How brands can create human connection at scale
So, how can brands emulate Buzzfeed’s ability to connect with consumers?
During his talk, Frank cited three ways to create a human connection on a large scale.
See your true audience
Instead of seeing the audience as a single demographic, based on factors like age and socio-economic background, it is helpful to start from an individual perspective.
By using empathy as the foundation of their content strategy, brands are much more likely to create content with momentum, which in turn trickles out to a wider audience.
Think about the storytelling
Authenticity is incredibly important to Buzzfeed’s audience.
Unlike traditional media outlets, it is rooted in the everyday reality of its users, whereby humour and hard-htting topics go hand in hand.
Let’s take the recent example of when Buzzfeed partnered with Facebook Live to hold a debate on the EU Referendum.
A live segment of a girl offering her opinion (complete with profanities) garnered 7.5m views – more than coverage of interviews by both ITV and Sky News combined.
It’s not difficult to see why.
With its raw human element, it was far more relatable that the filtered depiction offered elsewhere.
Be agile and adapt
Lastly, Frank suggests that the key to creating quality and empathetic content is to test and test again.
Instead of jumping in head first and making big changes, it is more helpful to make small bets, over and over again.
From tweaking headlines to moving the position of embedded videos, making tiny changes can actually have the biggest influence over time.
Like the legendary Snoop Dogg himself, Buzzfeed’s ability to relate to its audience is fundamental to its success.
The approach might not be particularly ground-breaking, but in a world where most media outlets talk down to the audience, it is surprisingly underused.
For brands eager to create a more meaningful connection with consumers, it’s the best place to start.