Marketing with Strategic Empathy: A book review by Bob Morris

marketing-w-strategic-empathyMarketing with Strategic Empathy: Inspiring Strategy with Deeper Consumer Insight
Claire Brooks
KoganPage Publishers (August 2016)

How and why Strategic Empathy® can enrich all human relationships

At least since the bazaars in the ancient world, the basic purpose of marketing has remained the same: to create or increase demand for the given offering. As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of Dan Goleman’s research on emotional intelligence as well the relatively recent transfer of power during purchase decisions to the consumer. Also, we now have a much greater understanding and appreciation the impact of emotions during the purchase-decision process. Moreover, the business world today is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I remember.

This is what Claire Brooks has in mind when observing, “The challenge facing organizations now is how to equip managers, employees and other stakeholders with a new mindset and skills for a new paradigm. “The idea of Strategic Empathy® was developed in my consulting practice. At its core is the idea is that the idea of empathy with consumers, customers or service users can be learned as a form of ‘muscle memory’ which facilitates flexible strategy formation and activation.”

In this book, Brooks explains how managers in almost any organization (whatever its size and nature may be) can use Strategic Empathy® processes and tools “to learn, activate and communicate deep insights and strategies for success, not only with consumers and customers but with all the organization’s stakeholders.”

Basically, the material in her book will help her readers master and manage what could be characterized as “people power,” beginning with their own.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Brooks’s coverage:

o Shaping and reshaping marketing strategy (Pages 4-7 and 53-66)
o Strategic Empathy (14-18)
o Framework One: emotions (22-28)
o Framework Two: needs, goals, and values (28-29)
o Framework Three: culture (29-34)
o Framework Four: decision-making (35-40)
o Differentiated brand positioning (56-61)
o Strategic Empathy Process for marketing strategy formation (71-90)
o Phase One: Immerse in then consumer’s world (79-83, 91-123, and 124-155)
o Deep Visualization (133-137)
o Metaphor elicitation (139-145)
o Activate insights into strategy (157-177)
o Step 2: build fresh consumer or customer insights (163-165)
o Inspire: communicate strategic learning (179-210)
o Strategic story-telling, not presenting (183-192)
o Video production guidelines (194-207)
o Strategic Empathy Process: Non-profit organizations (211-230)
o Show the Strategic Empathy Process works in a non-profit (215-225)

As Dan Goleman explains, “In 1990, in my role as a science reporter at The New York Times, I chanced upon an article in a small academic journal by two psychologists, John Mayer, now at the University of New Hampshire, and Yale’s Peter Salovey. Mayer and Salvoes offered the first formulation of a concept they called “emotional intelligence.” He has since developed the concept in much greater depth, suggesting (in an article in 1999) that there are five components of emotional intelligence and one of them is empathy, “the ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. A skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. Hallmarks include expertise in building and retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, and service to clients and customers.” You may also wish to check out mirror neurons that “mirror” the behavior (especially body language) of others.

I mention this because empathy can be a critically important factor in all human interactions. For example, according to Nicholas Webb in What Customers Crave, “Most companies haven’t transitioned from their customer service-industrial service complex past to today’s connected world. They’re still stuck in the old ways, the old mindsets, of customer service. They’re still internally focused on profit, rather than externally focused on the only thing that matters – the customers and what they love and what they hate. You must lean into the new customer experience to succeed.”

Presumably Brooks would respond, “It is one thing to understand what consumers love and hate. It is quite another to reassure them that you have that understanding and will always do all you can to serve their best interests. Empathy gives credibility to such reassurances.” In this context, I am again reminded of Maya Angelou’s observation, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I commend Claire Brooks on the abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel that she provides in this book. It is important to note that, however different they may be in most respects, all of the companies annually ranked most highly admired and best to work for are also annually ranked most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry segment have culture within which empathy is a core value, not only in relationships with customers but also in relationships between and among those who comprise the workforce. That doesn’t happen by accident.

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