In the midst of today’s marketing tech innovations, empathizing with the customer is key.

A classic example: You enter a grocery store at 11:30 p.m. at night with the goal of grabbing a bottle of milk and leaving. All of a sudden, you are being offered all kinds of coupons, suggestions of additional ingredients or even a recipe that might absolutely be of interest to you – in different circumstances. It’s personalized, but is the store really empathizing with you?


A late night trip to the store for milk – not a context for cross-sell

Customers have come to expect tailored and efficient experiences, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to compromise on authenticity. They expect the brands that they love to understand their true wants and needs, in real-time and in context.

It ultimately comes back to the basics of human interactions. Underpinning all of our needs and desires are a set of human characteristics that govern the way consumers interact with a brand. In short, we’re people and we want to be treated as such – not as segments, or personas or defined by our transactions.

But even when brands invest in providing a human touch this process alone does not get the job done. A level of creativity is also required to understand and empathize with customers, while simultaneously developing a solution to customers’ problems.

Making creative empathy a priority

Problem solving ultimately comes down to two Cs – the consumer and context. Without each of these elements, it is nearly impossible to engage customers in a thoughtful way.

So how does empathy fuel creativity? The process begins by listening – finding out what or why a particular consumer does not want/desire/need a product, and from there, you derive an insight. This insight then brings the realization of empathy, which fuels the creativity to solve the problem uncovered.

Take Apple’s Siri: The engineers at Apple did not arrive at the conclusion of creating a “bot” within one’s cell phone out of thin air. The “empathy” realization here is the need for users to have a personal assistant that also doubles as their personal cell phones. Researchers and product developers found that users have a desire for a personal assistant to solve simple problems such as, “What is the weather like tomorrow?” or “Please call mom.” By hearing and learning about user habits and needs, insights developed helped to fuel the need for a creative product that provides solutions.

While marketing as a whole has changed dramatically and variables in this equation have multiplied, the human factor in the equation remains constant (or it should). The customer has and will continue to be front and center.

Going back to the idea of empathy and creativity, you can almost say that empathy is the path to “problem finding” and creativity is the path to “problem solving”. There needs to be a healthy synergy between the two that ultimately leads to better experiences for customers.

Figuring out what your potential customer will ultimately respond to by empathizing with them and then finding a creative way to not only engage customers but to help them achieve their goals in the moment is the real win.