How to use empathy in your marketing

Woman smiling at her phone

Noun: Sonder. “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness” – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

A bit poetic for a blog about marketing perhaps, but bear with me. As marketers, all too often our customers are numbers on a report. Sometimes known fondly as ‘pots’, sometimes ‘segments’, if they’re lucky, they’ve found themselves assigned to a pre-defined ‘persona’ with other like-minded customers. No matter how sophisticated your data set up, your customers aren’t numbers. They’re people. Of course, marketing at scale means you need to segment these customers and create ways of working that are efficient. However, when it comes to our content, we must remember that we’re speaking to real people, people with lives, interests, and passions.

What is empathetic marketing?

The goal for any business is to have loyal customers. Empathetic marketing is a key tactic to attract those loyal customers, and keep them. Let’s break it down. Empathy is a person’s ability to see events and situations from another’s perspective – to put yourself in their shoes. So empathetic marketing is all about showing the human side of your brand, the side that cares about people and causes.

Empathetic marketing allows your brand to naturally build strong, emotional relationships with customers. This is done by acknowledging and appealing to the role emotion plays in the customer’s decision making, and how they respond to your marketing campaigns. It’s not always about the hard sell.

You can’t form an emotional connection with a faceless entity. So in order to create emotional ties, we must clearly display our brand’s emotions, passions, and empathy in our marketing. Make the first move as it were.

Empathetic marketing shouldn’t be a standalone concept, but something you weave throughout your various campaigns to build up your brand image as one that cares. Let’s look at some examples of how brands have demonstrated empathy in a natural way throughout cross channel marketing.

Brand story

Email campaign from Thortful

This email campaign from Thortful is a fantastic example of how empathetic marketing can work with your brand story. Thortful‘s platform works with independent creators to combine the production of a large company, with the passion and integrity of independent creators.

This campaign shows off how proud the brand are of those creators. Showing that they are emotionally invested in their team and their business. This then translates to the reader, who can recognize this passion and feel it themselves.

Causes and passions

Vans Instagram post celebrating Pride month

Another classic example of empathetic marketing is supporting a cause or charity. In this example Vans shared what they’re doing as a brand to support Pride this year. The Instagram post explains how the brand has teamed up with artists working to create social change and encourage acceptance in communities all around the world, to create a collection especially to recognize the month. Vans also share that they’re donating funds from their Checkerboard Fund to multiple organizations working to create change.

Our own research found that 20% of consumers wanted to hear more about how a brand is supporting charitable causes. Sharing values is increasingly important to consumers, and is becoming a part of the decision making process. By having clear causes that your brand supports, you’ll be aligning with your customers and prospects on an emotional level, in turn creating stronger connections to both grow your audience, and retain your existing customers.

Demonstrate values

Email campaign from Lush

Cosmetics brand Lush sent out this email to mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The brand shared articles for readers to educate themselves, and also included their own staff member’s stories. This is a strong demonstration of empathetic marketing, and by including their own team in the campaign, Lush prove that this is something that truly matters to the brand.

The brand is speaking up for those who are underrepresented, with no commercial angle. This shows that this passion comes from genuine advocacy and support, something that is important to customers.

Charity partners

Email campaign from Toms for pride

Footwear brand Toms are well known for their charitable ethos. In this campaign they tap into the moment around Pride, but subtly remind customers they support the LGBTQ+ community year-round. Because let’s be honest, if you care about a cause, it’s something you should be supporting until there’s no longer an injustice to be rectified, not just when it’s trending. Toms embody empathy in everything they do, creating a strong brand persona of one that cares – something customers recognize and appreciate.

Checking in

SMS from travel company Skyes

Service messages can be thoughtful too. These SMS examples show that. The SMS from Sykes cottages is a nice touchpoint to add to the customer experience. Sending a message at checkout time, with a nice message hoping that the stay was a good one creates a positive interaction between brand and customer. It’s a service email, but it emulates the customer service you’d get from a concierge in a nice hotel, it feels like a genuine text from someone who cares about you. It does a fantastic job of evoking positive emotions at the final touchpoint of the experience.

SMS from dog food brand Tails

Similarly, this SMS from Tails does a great job of communicating in a caring way. The message is sharing information on how to keep your puppy happy, showing a duty of care to their customer, and canine consumer. Plus, by using name personalization, Tails make it feel all the more genuine. This is a great example of human-to-human (or human-to-puppy) marketing, making the communication feel personal and authentic.


The key thing is for brands to have a genuine passion or cause, and show that emotion to their consumers. When this is done well, it naturally creates buy-in and will forge a brand-customer relationship built on longer lasting connections. This then progresses into loyalty and customer advocacy – two things that are invaluable for brands in such an overcrowded market place.

It’s important to remember that back in the day, before the internet, when people purchased from local vendors they knew and chatted with, loyalty was more than convenience, it was a result of human to human interaction and emotional connections. There’s no reason we must leave that behind simply because we’re interacting through a screen.

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