27 Jan Brand Purpose: Walking the walk with Empathy
As companies become more ‘Purpose Oriented’, the importance of empathy in business has never been more central to success.
Companies that successfully align their goals and values with those of their consumers, through shared-purpose, clearly do profit – according to business guru, Jim Stengel, purpose-oriented businesses outperform the S&P by 400%-500% and grow 3-10 times faster than their competitors.
But that is no mean feat. In order for ‘purpose’ not to become simply another buzz-concept, companies must walk the walk, every bit as much as they talk the talk.
So what is the role of empathy here? Empathy makes companies better communicators (it shows that we listen). It fosters engagement with the consumer (it helps us to connect meaningfully with them, and them with us). It helps us channel our energies and resources cost-effectively, by providing clarity and understanding about the role of our product, or service in our consumers’ lives. Net-net, it creates stronger businesses and, ultimately, a healthier bottom line.
But I want to turn my attention for the moment to the idea of listening – really listening – to consumers.
It goes without saying that enterprises of all kinds make massive investments in consumer insight – today, by some measures, the market research industry is worth in excess of $50bn. However, the issue in not the amount of data and information we have at our disposal, but how to action it. Recent studies have highlighted this and one of the major concerns dogging senior executives is how to make sense the data-fog that characterizes today’s business environment.
Most agencies offer a multi-staged approach to understanding the consumer and identifying insights that will hopefully drive business forward – ourselves included. What is more important though, is the spirit in which the client and the agency enter into the journey of discovery. The process and the debrief are of course essential, but equally important is the client-agency team’s potential to empathize with and connect to the consumer, in order to use that understanding to shape successful future strategy.
How? A few simple adjustments make an enormous amount of difference…Take down any, and all walls between your business and its consumers. Relate to your consumers in a comfortable and natural context. See your contact with them as on-going. Engage in direct dialogue. Remind yourself that self-appropriated learning, for you and your team, is way more powerful and resonant than sitting behind glass, or poring over a debrief document long after you’ve said goodbye to your captive consumer sample.
Tomorrow’s successful businesses are those that constantly engage with, and perpetually align themselves towards their consumer-base. In this context, empathy is the most powerful tool at your disposal.