How to make common sense really common: The value of Consumer Empathy

Empathy could have a neural originIn marketing professional services it is sometimes difficult to find the right insight in order to fulfill your clients’ marketing objectives. Of course there is research, but sometimes consumers don’t know what they want until you show it to them, and of course there is heuristic, but with constant change, there is no guarantee of successful past recipes working well again. And success shouldn’t be a happy client on a creative work, success is a marketing activity that contributes to consumers buying more, repeating their purchases, being loyal to the brand and tell other consumers how good a product (and the experience) is.

When research and heuristic can’t be used, solving a problem through common sense could be the way. It is a really inspiring concept, an individual trait that allows to judge things in a way that can’t be discussed by the majority of people. It is a very useful tool to find solutions to our marketing challenges, but when doing so, there is a big risk, since individual judgment is…individual. That’s why, as Voltaire wrote in his Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764) “Common sense is not so common”. Common sense is in fact an individual skill, for something that is pretty collective. How to connect with the collective in order to find the right marketing insights? Maybe we should turn to what connect us: emotions. Because we, as consumers, make purchase decisions emotionally and justify them rationally. In fact, connecting emotionally (in a positive way, could be negative too) with people is the holy grail of the consumer marketing.

Although the term has previously been used, in 1995 Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ, the author introduced this new perspective on analyzing people’s competences and skills around 5 main constructs: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skill, motivation and empathy.

Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. I, as a sentient, can feel how my friend, another sentient, is suffering because his girlfriend stood him up. But there is no need of reality in order to generate a feeling based on others’ feelings since I can also cry when I see a sad scene in a movie. This feeling has been artificially generated by a third-party stimulus (the movie) using my empathy. What if we could artificially recreate, on purpose, what a consumer feels when using our product or watching our ads? What if we could develop Consumer Empathy to feed our consumer insights? That would be completely awesome.

But when we sleep, we probably can’t generate much new memories, just mix our existing memories into new ones, with another script. When creating your own artificial feelings for developing consumer empathy, you will probably need to get rid of your rational prejudices and use your own experience memories (visual, emotional, sensitive) in order to build consumers’ experiences in your head. That’s why it is so important to live as much as possible the experiences consumers should live when considering your client’s product or category. And for those cases where it is not possible, you use common sense.

Consumer empathy and common sense are two very powerful tools combined together, complementing other methods like research or heuristic, in order to find consumer insights that help define new communication strategies, product development, service processes design, in store experiences, web navigation and so.

Is consumer empathy or common sense something that can be worked out, or is it somehow innate? Well, it’s probably a bit of the two. Live as much enriching experiences you can, observe how people behaves in public environments (i.e. a supermarket), and when you struggle, use common sense, is the Ockham’s Razor of marketing services.


3 Comments on “How to make common sense really common: The value of Consumer Empathy”

  1. […] and executional point of view. Creatives also need to think in terms of User Experience, some consumer empathy will […]

  2. […] Why a consumer, after being impacted by the advertisement should change his behavior in order to meet your business objectives. If the business objective is clearly defined in the brief, the creative agency should be able to answer this very simple question. And that question should be in the heart of every creative as a sanity check, proving himself his/her Consumer Empathy. […]

  3. […] if it has something not appreciated by the consumers. Of course, you will need a little bit of consumer empathy, but never forget to test your content among some of your consumers. Some companies deliver first […]


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