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How Cognitive Empathy in Marketing Revolutionizes Your Brand Relationships

Darin L. Hammond
Darin L. Hammond

Donald Trump owns the fatal political and business flaw. Trump has a big problem. In his 2016 run for Presidency, Trump daily flashes his grand flaw, the one that will keep him out of the White House: a lack of empathy.

He is incapable of jumping inside the minds of voters to read their needs and connect with them emotionally and empathically.

Empathy is the capacity to get into the minds of others’ thoughts and feelings. In a powerful nation, success depends on caring for others, and Trump just doesn’t. He can’t get beyond himself.

His flaw is making frequent headlines like this one from The Chicago Tribune on August 1st "The empathy gap: Donald Trump makes it all about him (and why that's dangerous).” He’s in trouble because he cannot understand the emotions of the parents of a fallen Marine. His brain is so wrapped up in himself that he can’t connect with others. He’s the shell of a human without emotional intelligence.

Why is this so important? Empathy is the key component in cutting-edge leadership and the Commander-in-Chief of the United States must have this capacity finely honed. We are in the era of empathic leadership, when leaders must be able to read the minds and emotions of masses of people. The connection that a leader has with followers must be authentic and meaningful or the leader will fail. The change in culture  began with the transparency and free access to information via the Internet.

Related Article: Where the People Are: Modern Marketing Strategies for Multi-Channel Brands

Relationships Are the Key to Empire and Coalition Building

When the gurus in business offer advice to future leaders, "you should think like Larry Page, Steve Jobs, and Richard Branson.” Sure, you would be successful in any field. Easier said than done, right? To “think like them” is ambiguous. I mean, where do you start? Well, you can actually do it. Start by discovering the character trait or skill set that unites the three. In reality, a repeatable method drives the power of these empire builders, and you can mimic the strategy to thrust your brand into the limelight.

The common thread that binds three individuals is that each possessed a heightened psychological capacity: cognitive empathy. With this essential business (and life) tool, the three men revolutionized a new era in brand identity and marketing. Businesses now work to create and nurture long-term brand relationships using cognitive empathy to feel the needs and pains of customers and respond to them.

Need more proof that empathy is essential to business leadership? The Harvard Business Review stated that "Enlightened companies are increasingly aware that delivering empathy for their customers, employees, and the public is a powerful tool” that paves the way for innovation and success.

Additionally, one of the most significant minds of our time stresses the overall need for empathy in our culture: “Humans aren't as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were 'reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy."  -Neil deGrasse Tyson

As human beings, our best efforts in empathy and altruism elevate the human race and cause cultures to thrive whether in business or life.

Empathy Is a Complex Capacity: A Scientific Approach

We use the term empathy to describe a variety of capacities. Actually, more precise terms exist to clarify the type of empathy discussed, which proves helpful when discussing it in business. The three kinds of empathy include:

  • Cognitive Empathy
  • Affective Empathy
  • Compassionate Empathy

Three kinds of empathy: cognitive, affective, compassionate.

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The figure above illustrates how these three connect to one another: 

  1. Affective empathy is the ability to connect to the emotional state of another. So for example, a colleague mourns the loss of his mother, and you are able to connect with what that experience feels like. It’s like emotion reading, feeling what you find people experiencing. When writers criticize empathy’s role in business, they usually refer to this adopting of another’s emotions.
  2. Compassionate empathy emerges from both cognitive and affective empathy and involves the action that results in a person who has been moved by the other kinds of empathy. Compassionate empathy is powerful because it moves toward action and engagement that benefits others.
  3. Cognitive empathy encompasses the other two because it can be harnessed effectively to make empathy work in business. Cognitive empathy is the ability to shift perspectives and take on the role of another person’s mind, thinking the same type of thoughts. Because this involves cognition and metacognition (thinking about thinking), it is more complex and can integrate the other two to make decisions and take action.

While Trump fails in all three, most people are able to synthesize these capacities to some effect in connecting with and helping people. But it’s essential to remember that these are skills and therefore can be practiced and perfected, hence their appeal to future leaders.

Key Steps to Become a Cognitive Empathy Giant

Improving your empathic skills really amps your leadership game, and employing the skills in the workplace revolutionizes that space. You can transform yourself and the place at which you work to a nurturing, healthy, and productive environment that fosters growth and innovation.

The good news is that the empathy deficit can be reduced. Empathy can be learned and companies can improve. With prioritization and commitment, companies can measure where they are and chart a path to becoming more empathic. Enlightened leadership can create a more empathic culture.

Cognitive empathy yields returns in customer relationships, ROIs, and positive brand Identity.

The steps outlined below will help you get started in revising your corporate culture, and they are pulled from top marketers in the industry. The links provided are great resources to learn more about how to employ cognitive empathy in your company.

  • Listen, learn, and adopt the points of view of others: customers. Design a digital marketing and customer service plan that records collaborates, and responds to customer experiences. After learning their point of view, adopt it and use your plan to incorporate the customer into every aspect of your company. You might use polls, exit surveys, customer personas, reviews, interviews, and conversations to discover and plan for your customer's needs. Listen more than you pitch.
  • Align your core values on customer experiences. Center the entire inward and outward environment of the company on cognitive empathy towards customers, which means that you will use empathy to discover and connect with who your customers really are.
  • Establish meaningful customer relationships through one on one experiences (social media, face to face, chat, etc.). One on one experiences are essential to developing loyal customers, and the hyper-social, technological culture we live in makes interactions easier. Use empathy to engage your audience deeply and authentically.
  • Influence your customers using proximity and intimacy. The brand associates who work the front line with close interactions through social media, phone calls, and emails must feel empowered by management to do their job of relating with customers. Potential clients will reject superficial measures.
  • Make it easy for customers to give back to the company. Don’t sit back and wait for customers to become advocates of your brand. Enter their minds and find ways to motivate them to support your company and become an evangelist. Encourage social sharing, reviews, ratings, feedback, and word of mouth marketing. Provide incentives such as discounts or company swag to encourage the evangelism of your brand.

Become One With Your Customers

In true zen fashion, get in tune with your customer base and you will see massive ROIs and benefits for your company. In the current market, companies who authentically sacrifice and help their customers supercharge their brand.

Related Article: Build Your Tribe: How to Make an Audience Loyal to Your Brand

Key Action Takeaways

  • Focus on building long-term relationships and personal interactions with buyers in the new marketing environment. 
  • Avoid traditional sales pitches and replace them with information that will help your customers. 
  • Use cognitive empathy to understand the pains and needs of your clients, creating buyer personas to design your marketing pipeline. 
  • Amp your brand identity by using empathy and building on long-term customer relationships.
Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Darin L. Hammond
Darin L. Hammond Member
I stepped out of the box and recycled it. Empathy is my superpower. Creator, Leader, Blogger, Father, Friend. I use cognitive neuroscience to reveal business and marketing action tips. I am a jedi master of Brand Identity. Come visit me: Website: Podcast: Website