There are many factors that add meaning and purpose to a brand, and they all stem from a single source: empathy.

Empathy is the ability to walk in another person’s shoes. That is, to see and experience the world from a perspective different from your own.

Here we explore how empathy plays a vital role in shifting brands from a bland and vulnerable position, to one that is robust in meaning and purpose.

Empathy as a driver of brand strategy

When you’re close-in to a business’s daily operations it’s hard to see how your brand is perceived by the people you serve, both as customers and employees. To create a meaningful and purposeful dimension for your brand requires you to step out of your own perceptions of what’s good and valuable about your brand. It forces you to look at your brand — and everything it represents — through the lens of human needs, values, and aspirations. Through an empathetic approach, it’s easier to see the meaningful outcomes people experience based on their interactions with your brand. As such, empathy leads you to the deep-rooted connections that can be forged to create strong and enduring bonds. You won’t reach this point without allowing yourself to take the necessary steps back to the most common and fundamental needs, values and aspirations of humanity.

Empathy as a cultural ethos

Your business is a set of policies and procedures that have been conceived and designed to produce desired metrics (e.g. productivity, efficiency, profitability). Empathy can be used to elevate how well these functions not only produce the desired metrics, but do so in a way that aligns to the needs, values, and aspirations of the people involved. Empathy helps you create a more human-centric culture, by encouraging you to rethink and reconfigure the nature of your policies and procedures. As such, empathy helps you better engage and motivate employees. This means they’ll be far more likely to listen to, appreciate, and follow your leadership.

Empathy as an engine of innovation

If your business, like many, is struggling with hyper-competition and increasing product commoditization, innovation will be a primary focus. Nothing inspires innovation better than empathy. By encouraging your development people to “walk in your customer’s shoes”, either literally or through sensed experience, you bring them closer to what’s really important and valuable to the market. An empathetic attitude sheds new light on what’s needed now and how to best address that need or opportunity.

Empathy as a leadership practice

We’re all born empathetic. As babies we all had the capacity to perceive how others were feeling and what they were experiencing. Sadly, over time, we lose this skill. However, it is remarkably easy to revive and put to good use. Mindful leadership is the goal. All it requires is that you adapt your leadership presentation and style based on an understanding of your follower’s needs, values, and aspirations. You don’t necessarily change your management objectives, you simply radically improve your leadership performance by forging more meaningful connections with your followers.

If you are looking into the future, and have questions about your brand’s ability to navigate the rough seas ahead, you’ll want to carefully consider your own, and your organization’s, capacity for empathy. The strongest businesses going forward will be known for how their meaning and purpose-led behavior enhances both individual and collective well-being. They only reach this strong position by embracing empathy every step of the way.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy firm.

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