Macrotrend data is consistent: Consumer behavior is shifting rapidly, purchasing patterns are in flux and customer loyalty is shaken. The common thread is no surprise: we are human, we are struggling and we need empathy more than ever.
The magnitude of change, loss of control and continued uncertainty has led us to question everything: where we work and where we live, what we buy and why we buy it. For nimble companies that can connect on an emotional level this shakeup in brand loyalty presents an opportunity.
Win hearts first
Companies investing in corporate social responsibility can help mitigate today’s challenges as we seek positivity and solutions. For example, stories of luxury goods and technology companies shifting production to make masks and ventilators have been shared broadly in social media. The same is true for high-end restaurants and hotels that have provided meals and lodging for healthcare workers and first responders.
Agile companies are winning over hearts, and are creating an opportunity to further engage with consumers to ultimately win over minds, and build loyalty.
Connect with empathy, not aspiration
We want to feel understood more than we want to be admired so it’s important to keep it real. The sense of isolation can trigger emotions ranging from sadness, anxiety, loneliness and uncertainty. So, when a brand relates to our state of mind, it validates those feelings, and we feel understood.
For example, one of the distinct differences that takes place when a consumer who contacts customer service reaches gets a person rather than automation is empathy. A sincere apology and offer to help often neutralizes a poor user experience. Through empathy-driven communications brands have the power to retain loyalty, build relationships and even inspire hope — hope that we can get through this, together.
Build purpose-driven communities
Creating a sense of community is more important than ever. Brands that are nimble, open to connecting on a more emotional, authentic level, and inviting customers to help shape their understanding, have an opportunity to leapfrog those with established, conventional or static brands. Standing for something that people can align behind is critical to build mutual understanding and trust so that they’ll invite more people to join the community. Who you are as a company is now largely defined by what you stand for, and how you can help your customer live their best life even during challenging times.
By inviting consumers to support your purpose, brands become more dynamic and relevant. It’s important to keep pace with the resulting evolution of the brand and purpose. The speed of change is accelerating more rapidly than ever before, and your creative, content and communication channels all need to align, or advocates will migrate to a new community.
Focus on psychographics
Targeting your audiences based on why they should care, over who they are or where they live, will allow you to break through to new audiences. Euromonitor International’s “2020 Consumer Types” presentation provides an excellent overview of changes in audience segments by clustering them by personality type, shopping and technology preferences, attitudes, and behaviors. By understanding what matters to your consumers and why, you can build empathy-driven campaigns that will allow you to expand your reach and relevance, ultimately building a relationship with your audiences.
While data is a valuable tool to understand your audiences, significant shifts in their values and priorities, and a window into what they care about and why, it requires a very real, very human interpretation. The key is to LISTEN, respond with empathy and create a forum to engage and grow, together.
Megan Jordan is Chief Communications Officer and Senior Vice President of Global Public Affairs at ChromaDex. She is an Annenberg alumna and a member of the USC Annenberg Center for PR Board of Advisors.