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Make Them Cry – How To Use Empathy In Content Marketing
MARCH 2017

Successful content marketing is all about people connection. We have a brand, we have an audience. These two should connect in a harmonious way that’s beneficial to both parties. Brands can always use great content marketing help from experts, write compelling content to lure in the readers or hire the best marketers to push their brands. Whatever strategy they employ to connect to their audience, for me, the best and probably the easiest to do is to create content that’s driven by empathy.

What is empathy?

It’s not just knowing your audience and what they need. It’s putting yourself in their shoes, their situations, their dilemmas in order to see the world through their eyes and find out what you can offer while you’re in that world.

It starts with understanding your market, thorough any means possible (social interaction, interviews, surveys, etc.) and creating personas. But even with all this rich knowledge of your audience, you may still fail at engaging them because your stories lack empathy.

How can we use empathy?

Create content that literally lightens your audience’s load. Imagine they are in a hellish position and that with your brand, they can escape their situation. You now become their hero.

Empathy is not putting your brand upfront and talking about how great it is. It is also not trying hard to become relevant through the most recent trending topics. No cheap tricks here. It is creating content that will tug at the hearts of your audience at their current situations. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t do any more selling ever. What this means is, there is a right place and time for that. Catch their emotions first, and then move in with the promoting.

Brands and their messages

Some of the best usages of empathy are made by some of the best brands out there. Here are 3 brands and the message they want to convey:

  1. Dove – Real Sketches

Message: It’s going to be okay

This brand is well-known at making stories that empower people, in this case women. They never focus on Dove as a beauty product.

It starts with a sketch artist who is tasked to draw women’s faces based on their own description about their facial appearance. Then through some interaction with the other participants, he then draws the same person based on the description of others. In the end, the women are shown the two sketches side-by-side. They will discover that the sketch of what they described themselves is probably the harshest of all descriptions. While the other sketch revealed a more beautiful person. Its tagline sums it up perfectly, “You are more beautiful than you think” or simply just encouraging self-confidence. In the end, the women vowed to have a better outlook of themselves and that everything will be okay. Dove really knows its target market.


  1. JetBlue – Flight Etiquette

Message: Educate through humor

Or in JetBlue’s case, sarcasm. But any company that’s famous for its customer service is already a great success. Add a bit of humor to their campaigns and you’ve got a winning formula. JetBlue’s mission is to inspire humanity. And if they can do it in a funny but relatable way, then their message will be heard.

In this campaign, they don’t focus on their airline but at the many other facets of flying. It involves a series of videos on flight etiquette and uses humor to showcase the many problems people encounter when traveling: getting too comfy on the passenger lounges, talkative seatmates, rabid boarding, etc. It hits the passengers right on the nose by letting them take a serious look at their own flight etiquettes. Are we any one of these people portrayed in the videos? Can we all just be courteous while traveling? 

  1. Nike – Unlimited You

Message: Challenge and inspire your audience


In this video, Nike challenges the full potential of amateurs athletes and make them realize the “unlimited you”. Athletes push themselves more than what they thought they could do.

The campaign is brilliant because audiences didn’t see the normal successful athletes and how they did it. Instead we saw them doing more than what the narrator tells them to be. It tells the audience that in life, it’s not about finding what your limits are. It’s about knowing you have none. 

Empathy sells

These three brands have a commercial agenda but they emphasized more on their target audience through well-crafted content built on empathy. In effect, they connected to their audience and had a deeper kind of engagement.

Small bits of content may be able to jack up your numbers but if the content’s meaningful message doesn’t hit right in the feels, it won’t be very effective. In doing content 2017, the question is not “How do we connect?” It is “How do we empathize?”

Annie Ianko

Chief Content Geek

Annie has 19 years’ experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.

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