We aimed to establish a modern and widely accepted definition of empathy in developing markets where both consumers and brands were dealing with issues of alienation, isolation, and distrust.
Consumers felt exploited by profit-driven brands, leading to feelings of isolation and depression, while brands were grappling with rising costs, declining profits, and strained value chain relationships.
We undertook experimental anthropological research, which included digital ethnography, expert interviews, and empathy storytelling sessions with various groups, including sexual and religious minorities, pet caregivers, design professionals, economically challenged groups, and marketers.
Our goal was not to have a complex academic conversation about empathy but to map, measure, and identify consumer experiences of empathy and evolve ways to discern these experiences.
We used three primary methods:
Digital Ethnography and Social Listening: We analysed publicly available social media feeds, video blogs, articles, and other online content related to empathy and brands.
Empathy Storytelling Sessions: We conducted sessions to understand the definition of empathy, gather personal experiences of empathy, and explore consumers’ perceptions of various brands and their products and services.
Expert Interviews: We engaged with experts from various fields to deepen our understanding of empathy and its practical applications.
Our research uncovered an emergent definition of empathy as a multi-dimensional exchange that fosters customised, humanised connections and challenged the notion that businesses cannot be empathetic.
We identified nine guiding principles for creating empathetic brand strategies and outlined practical steps for the brand to embed empathy in real-world interactions.
We were also able to highlight potential barriers to empathy that the brand should be aware of.
Overall, our research underscored the significance of empathy in strengthening brand-consumer relationships and offered valuable insights for its application in the business context.
(NOTE: Case study taken from Quantum & Tata ESOMAR Congress 2023)