How to show empathy in your marketing in 2021

Did you know that only 20% of marketers are able to predict the next best action to take for their customers?

This suggests that 80% of marketers’ activity is random and ill thought out. Lacking proper planning and strategy.

This approach can produce many negative consequences. It can drain time, money, and resource. And lack results. It can also fail to address your customers’ genuine concerns and challenges.

The result? Your brand lacks empathy.

It becomes irrelevant at best. Offensive at worst.

The past few years have brought to light the importance of empathy in marketing. A pandemic. Black Lives Matter protests. The Me Too movement.

And unfortunately, some brands didn’t get it right. Their tone was off. It lacked empathy. And it received significant backlash.

For brands, empathy needs to be at the core of all of their marketing activity, messaging, branding, and strategy.

And in this guide, we will show you how.

For marketers. Better starts here.

What do we mean by empathy?

Honestly, transparency, and authenticity are characteristics that all brands should aspire to.

However, these traits are all owned by a brand. And reflect a brand’s characteristics.

Empathy, on the other hand, is all about the consumer.

It can be offered up by a brand to their audience, in an attempt to put themselves in others’ shoes and to identify with their situation, their challenges, and their goals. And then understand how their brand can then support these consumers and solve their problems.

In terms of marketing, this means exploring what your audience truly values and what they really connect with. Instead of just focusing on what will sell. And then incorporating these learnings into as many areas of marketing activity and campaigns as possible.

In turn, this will help to build trust, positive brand sentiment, and a customer base full of advocates.

8 ways to show empathy in your marketing

Knowing what empathy is is all well and good. But how do you actually show empathy in your marketing?

1. Put your customer first

When it comes to showing empathy in your marketing, the first and foremost thing you need to do is put your customers first.

Your customers have a problem, but they often don’t know what the solution is. So instead of pushing your features and functionality, you need to listen to them. Understand what their challenges and motivations are. And be interested in them.

Because when you can begin thinking like your customers, you can begin to acknowledge what they’re struggling with, and how best to meet their needs – not just your business needs.

How can you tie this into your marketing? By identifying these challenges and showcasing exactly how your solution addresses them.

By starting with the emotion. The pain point. The stressor. And then joining the dots with logic and detail of how you can make their lives easier.

JetBlue achieve this by producing light-hearted videos directly addressing – and solving – their customers’ common travel challenges and irritations.

Empathy in Email Marketing

Image Source – Jetblue – Click for Video

2. Create personas

If you want to empathise with your customers, one of the first steps is to understand them.

And we don’t just mean what they like to buy from you. We mean their goals, their challenges, their hopes and dreams, their family life, their hobbies, their first-ever pet.

Ok, maybe we got a bit carried away. But the point is you need to gain a full and in-depth understanding of who your customer base are to truly walk in their shoes.

But with so many different customers with so many different personalities. Where do you even begin?

With personas.

Hubspot defines a persona as ‘a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers’.

Essentially, a persona is a summary of your ideal customer. A representation of someone who has the same interests, challenges, and priorities as your target audience.

And you don’t have to create just one persona. If you have multiple types of customer, then create a persona for each.

You can even go as far as using fictional names, avatars, and descriptions of their home life and hobbies. Enabling you to add personality.

A persona can then be regularly referenced in your marketing to tap into who your buyers are, and ensure that your messaging is spot on.

Empathy Email Marketing

3. Consider your tone of voice

It’s great that you’re putting your customer first. But communicating this to your audience can be a difficult step. And one that’s easy to get wrong.

During stressful and challenging times, many brands have misjudged the tone of their audience. You may remember the below ad from Dettol in the midst of the pandemic.

How to choose images for Email Marketing

Image Source – The Drum

Dettol failed to realise that hearing an alarm, watercooler conversations, or office gossip are not current challenges that their audience are facing. In fact, these are the ‘norms’ that many are happy to leave behind.

Similarly, Pretty Little Thing faced backlash for their response to the BLM movement, with many claiming their design was lazy and did not depict a true skin colour.

How to Show empathy in your email marketing


Empathy in email marketing

Image Source – The Tab

So how can your brand avoid these pitfalls?

By listening.

Listen to your audience. Monitor sentiment and reactions on social media, forums, and communities. And do not make decisions in a vacuum. Instead, ask people and get a wide variety of honest opinions before you set your next campaign live.

Ben & Jerry’s are a great example of how a carefully crafted statement that is genuinely authentic can truly reflect the tone of their audience. Even better, Ben & Jerry’s backed their statement up with their founders actually being involved in BLM protests in America.

Empathy in Email Marketing

4. Include personalisation

If you’re familiar with our content, you’re probably aware that we’re big advocates of personalisation.

Personalisation is key when it comes to engagement.

In fact, 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalised experiences.

And when it comes to relating to your audience, showing you have a solid understanding of who they are and what they want can go a long way.

Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities for personalisation to suit your campaigns and marketing abilities, for instance:

First name

By simply adding a first name to email subject lines and email copy, you are adding an easy personal touch which can help catch your recipient’s eye.


With recent lockdown restrictions and high street store closures, the location of your recipient can have a big impact on your messaging. So use your website and emails to communicate appropriate and helpful information.


Anniversary emails are a great engagement tactic for marketers, with the added benefit of delighting recipients. Whether it’s a birthday, sign up anniversary, or a date that’s special to your audience, send a little celebration to their inbox, and maybe even include a discount code.

Behavioural and purchasing

Use behavioural and purchasing data to recommend related products, send replenishment campaigns, or offer an abandoned basket nudge to your customers. Ensuring you’re showcasing the most relevant products as possible.

5. Focus on conversations. Not just conversions

When consumers are feeling stressed, lonely, or disconnected. They crave connection and community.

So take a step back from the usual hard-sell to open up conversations with your audience. And lay the foundations for community building.

By opening up a two-way conversation, you can learn from your interactions, and offer help instead of making the consumer feel that you want something from them.

In the long run, this will help to build a positive brand sentiment with prospective customers. But also create a fondness for your brand with your current customer base.

And there are so many options for marketers who want to start conversations and build community, many of which don’t have to be budget-busting.

For instance, Lego Ideas was created to allow users to submit ideas for Lego products to be turned into potential sets available commercially, with the original designer receiving 1% of the royalties.

But it also offers lots of fun creative ways to build community, such as contests, building activities, a blog, and a newsletter.

6. Be helpful

Many brands have gotten into the habit of creating content for the sake of creating content. With little thought to how useful it will be to their audience.

Not only is this a drain on resource and budget. But it also becomes white noise to your consumers.

When being empathetic in your marketing, content is the perfect channel. It is where you can clearly showcase that you are putting your customer first, listening to them, and helping them.

So use content to educate, build confidence, and empower your audience to solve their challenges and find their own solutions. With your support of course.

Helpful content can take many forms. Tips, tricks, and hacks. In-depth guides and webinars. Live events and workshops. Or behind the scenes videos – just as Lush do on their YouTube channel.


7. Offer a smooth buying journey

Empathy can also refer to understanding the goals and challenges of your audience throughout their buying journey with you. After all, it’s your duty to make this process as pain-free as possible.

Recommended products are a fantastic way to make the shopping experience even easier for your customers. Using past purchase data, you can showcase to your customers the products that are going to be of most interest to them.

This could include related products, add-ons, or products that need replenishing.

And even better, you can highlight these products via your website and emails, increasing the chances of engagement.

The purchase isn’t the only stage of the buying journey however. It’s also important that brands consider their pre and post-purchase support. Helping their customers at every step.

This could be in the form of FAQs, readily available support documentation, chatbots, or social channels where customers can contact a support representative.

Because sometimes the entire buying experience is made better when a customer feels heard and understood. Whether it be a query or complaint.

8. Listen and educate yourselves

A common theme throughout this guide is listening to your audience. As a brand, it is your responsibility to remain educated and on top of the latest trends, themes, and challenges that your audience is going through.

And there are lots of ways you can keep yourself updated. Monitor the buying behaviour of your audience using analytics. Simply asking their opinion via a survey or questionnaire. Or tracking social media keywords and brand mentions.

So keep your finger on the pulse.

Empathy in marketing checklist

Empathy is a big topic to tackle for marketers. So to make the process easier we have condensed the information from this guide into a handy checklist.

Put your customer first

Most importantly, remember to put your customer first in all of your marketing campaigns and activity

Create personas

Dig into your customers’ challenges by creating personal representations of your target audience. You can even include personal details such as hobbies and interests. 

Consider your tone of voice

Nothing suggests a lack of empathy more than a misjudged tone of voice. So gauge your audience well, and consider tone in all communications

Include personalisation

Showing you know your customers suggests that you really understand them. Prove this by personalising your email and website communications.

Focus on conversations. Not just conversions

When it comes to empathy, marketing isn’t all about the sale or conversion. Build a community to connect like-minded customers and start a conversation,

Be helpful

Don’t create content for the sake of it. Instead, consider what will be truly useful to your audience, and directly address their problems.

Offer a smooth buying journey

Empathy can be shown in your buying journey too. So remove any obstacles to purchase, and offer support at every step.

Listen and educate yourselves

Last but not least, keep your finger on the pulse and keep up to date with your audience. Whether that be new trends, new challenges, or new movements.

Is your brand lacking empathy?

Or maybe you are an empathetic brand, but are struggling to show it?

We can help.

Get in touch with our friendly team of experts who can talk you through strategies and tactics to show your audience you really understand them. And you really care.

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