4 Brands and Platforms Applying the Economics of Empathy



Brands and platforms such as Dove, Heineken, Hallmark, and Pinterest and are leading the way when it comes to tapping into the economics of empathy.


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In marketing, empathy is a critical component in the creation of consumer personas and establishing a deep connection to what matters to people at an emotional level. This is not only beneficial to the productivity of society but also a driver of business success.

Let’s take a look at four brands and platforms that are providing leadership around the application of empathy in business:

Pinterest: a more compassionate search experience

As more people look online for ways to cope with their emotions, searches for anxiety quotes increased 8x year-over-year, per Pinterest, and searches for how to support someone with depression have doubled.

The platform is taking bold steps to address these statistics and ensure the well-being of users by developing in-app coping exercises with support from emotional health experts at Brainstorm at the Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, Vibrant Emotional Health, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Each practice provides interactive ideas for improving their mood such as tools to help relax and exercises to self-compassion and empathy. As an example, a search for “stress relief” may populate options ranging form journaling, drawing or painting nature scenes, or making a playlist.

Fast-forward to today, 10 new exercises have been added targeted specifically towards people at risk of self-harm or injury and the company is kicking off a global rollout of these efforts in nine more countries including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, and the U.K.

“Everything we do is in service of helping people feel more inspired ….These experts continue to help us better understand different emotional states, including the unique needs of people who search for self-harm. If we can help even one person feel more optimistic, we know that’s time well spent,” said Co-Founder and Chief Creative and Design Officer Evan Sharp shared in a blog post.

Hallmark: ‘Just Because’ mini greetings

Showing appreciation and practicing empathy shouldn’t be reserved for the major triumphs, tragedies, or holidays. Hallmark has taken a bold stance on this notion with the launch of its ‘Just Because’ greeting card line. The concept behind it? The simple belief that every day we as humans encounter these moments and they are equally deserving of celebration and recognition.

“We did some insightful work that let us understand that in today’s society, especially with all the divisive, challenging things around us, people are craving things that are positive and good…While the line is about putting more good in the world, it does not shy away from the dark times,” said Hallmark Cards CMO Lindsey Roy in a recent Forbes article.

This particular initiative hits home for Roy who was involved in a tragic boating accident that left her with an amputated left leg in addition to other severe injuries. The results were overwhelmingly positive, incentivizing current loyal customers to buy more cards, attracting new customers and spurring social media conversations.

To show their appreciation, Hallmark ran a 20-week ‘Free Card Friday’ promotion allowing people to get a ‘Just Because’ card for free. This empathetic business cycle is an important one. By tapping into a deep understanding of what matters to consumers, Hallmark found heightened success and business profitability, in turn, allowing the company to build more opportunities to serve their purpose of helping people find ways to care for their loved ones.

Heineken: embracing the mindful drinking movement

According to a 2019 survey, 23 percent of Americans planned to skip alcohol for the entire month of January.

Heinken is paying attention to these trends, and more specifically, its Millennial-dominant audience by creating more non-alcoholic options catered to their lifestyle choices, values, and habits.

The brand’s newly released January Dry Pack includes 31 cans of Heineken 0.0. Each package equates to one alcohol-free beer per day and is set up similar to an advent calendar to bring a fun, experience-driven component to the offering.

Per Nielsen, “Millennials are driving the mindful drinking movement, as 66 percent say they’re making efforts this year to reduce their alcohol consumption — well above the average 47 percent among all U.S. consumers 21 and older.”

By innovating for opportunities around sober-curious, health-conscious consumers (each Heineken 0.0 is only 69 calories), Heineken is able to demonstrate empathy through positive and rewarding experiences. This translates into sustained loyalty and supports the business economically even in the less busy sales months.

Dove: leveraging the familial bond

For years Dove has been a leader when it comes to displaying empathy with its audience including stories like those depicted in the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign targeted to improve self-empowerment and self-belief.

More recently, the brand sponsored a new advertisement titled Hair Love created by Matthew A. Cherry. It is one of five nominated for an Academy Award in the category of ‘Best Animated Short Film.’

The video depicts the story of a young African American girl and her father struggling to tame her hair for an event while her mother is away. The video, a Kickstarter project, originally played in theatres during the screening of Angry Birds 2.

“The story was incredibly personal to us because it allowed us to tackle the negative societal stereotypes around natural hair and black fathers, and to normalize the depiction of a loving black family that we know so well and yet have seen so little of in the media,” said Matthew Cherry, the creator of the short.

Aside from underscoring the importance of representation, the bond between the father and daughter is one that humbly allows any Dove consumer to identify with a family-centric ad and feel a more personal connection to the products.

Learn more about Empathy Economics as part of our 2020 global theme: HUMAN.X and help us establish a human-first, experience-driven approach to digital marketing. Read the official announcement here and secure your early-bird discount today to save 20% on your full-conference pass to #SMWNYC (May 5-7, 2020).


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