Brief #31: Connecting with empathy to stay relevant

This content originally appeared September 23, 2020 as part of the Future of Marketing weekly email series. Subscribe here.

Empathy has the power to drive innovation and ROI, but it requires a deep connection with your audience – understanding how they feel, what they think, and need.

“We’re seeing this whole re-establishing the importance of the audiences’ sense of community, the way they view the economic social world and the impact companies have on everyday life,” shared Arjoon Bose, General Mills’ Head of Culture and Brand Experience – and chair of The Drum Awards for Content.

He later added, “it’s really about leaning into the modern technologies and modernizing the way we’re creating content, delivering content, and delivering participation.”

Prioritizing health and safety

A Gartner study reports holiday promotions are starting early this year – and Amazon is launching its own Black Friday in October to prove it. “Consumers are still afraid to go to stores. Their level of concern about the virus has not dissipated, so eCommerce acceleration will only continue.” 

Consumers are also shopping more cost-effectively due to market conditions – where people are becoming increasingly conscious of product reviews and brand values. In fact, this Consumer COVID-19 Concerns Tracker by Gartner reports what people are most worried about:

Overall, health and safety remains a concern for the majority of people, so update your messaging and actions to align your brand with your audience’s priorities.

This includes your customers, prospects, partners, and team.

Social on health and politics

Platforms like Facebook and TikTok are facing the challenge to respond to politics and data and privacy concerns. And yet, social media carries the potential to transform the future of business and politics around the world.

Here’s one example: Twitter launched the #WearAMask campaign to bring mask safety messaging to its platform after sending this saucy tweet – which became the most liked and retweeted tweet ever.

Essentially, when a user ‘liked’ a tweet with the #WearAMask hashtag, the ‘like’ button would transform into an animated mask emoji – where this ‘social experience’ moved people to engage with the post.

Twitter, then, doubled-down on the hashtag’s engagement and repurposed user tweets under the hashtag across dominant locations – boats, billboards, sidewalks – to really boost the message. Click the image to view more ad placement inspiration on Adage:

In addition to repurposing user-generated content, Twitter launched an ‘election hub’ to share accurate and relevant information about the upcoming U.S. elections – further pushing its mission to share trustworthy information.

What we’re learning:

  • Connecting with customers in a time of crisis [McKinsey]
  • Facebook launches a rights manager to let people claim content ownership [The Verge
  • Are events back? SXSW announces its 2021 online digital experience (and potential physical activation) [SXSW
  • 8 examples of empathetic content marketing in action [HubSpot
  • Watch: Trust-building and holiday eCommerce [Searchspring]
  • We asked Eunice Cancino, Marketing Manager at the Tory Burch Foundation, about her Perspective for the future [Future of Marketing]

“Leadership needs to be representative of your consumer base. If you don’t have a 360 perspective, you’ll only be able to tell one side of the story.”

Eunice Cancino, Marketing Manager, The Tory Burch Foundation

#BrandCrush: Securian Financial

Securian Financial recognized that everyone is experiencing things differently and asked people to share how they’re managing life. Plus, they’re donating $10 to Feeding America for every social post that tags #LifeBalanceRemix.

Customers, fans, and friends have been sharing content of parenting schedules, lifestyle changes, and hobbies. 

And Securian Financial has been repurposing #LifeBalanceRemix content in a gallery of user-generated content on a microsite to highlight the ‘new’ normal. 

Securian Financial accomplished a few things with this campaign.


  1. Made it easy to participate and spread the word
  2. Shared real stories by real people 
  3. Placed authenticity, empathy, and user-generated content at the front-and-center

Here’s a good webinar that shares how Securian Financial used social media and user-generated content to stay connected with over 19 million customers.