By Jennifer Roberts
“Tommy Lee Jones said to me: “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is. And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy.”
Meryl Streep was inspiring the Golden Globe audience on Sunday to take an active role in holding people in power accountable. As I listened to her speech a second time I couldn’t help but draw parallels (albeit less noble) to how critical it is for marketers to make empathy-driven decisions. This may seem obvious, but it can be a challenge for marketers to retain the voice of the consumer as they make decisions in their organization. Or as Meryl Streep put it, “enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like”.
Only then can we create conversations and ideas that consumers will lean into, like a friend they want to connect with, versus a braggart or bully they want to resist. It is human nature to slip away from feeling for the consumer and to be driven by opinions and growth targets. Our job is to find the sweet spot; where company objectives are met with a rising tide of consumers embracing a brand because its ideals and actions reflect what people care about and fit with the colour and texture of how they live.
Notably not once in Meryl’s speech did she say the name Trump; she understood her audience, took the opportunity to go deeper with her message and reached them at a time where it was ripe to resonate. With this kind of empathy, the decibels of the Trump name aren’t required to have impact.
One could argue our role as marketers is somewhat akin to method actors. Marketers need to be fully immersed, both emotionally identifying and envisioning the character’s life practically. The always on, busy and highly empowered nature of consumers suggests this kind of obsession is required for brands to breakthrough, resonate and have impact.