Name three brands you could not live without.
And allow me the wild guess that Amazon is on your list.
You wouldn’t be the only one.
According to a recent study that surveyed 15,000 U.S. customers, Amazon’s unwavering focus on customer needs propelled the brand to second place behind Apple, and to first place among millennials. Amazon’s supermodel status reflects the growing value consumers place on convenience and top notch customer service. But dig even deeper, and you’ll find that the crux of this major shift revolves around the fact that consumers just want to be understood and serviced on a more personal level. They long for empathy.
In this new climate, a new breed of empathy-driven brands like Casper, Airbnb, Warby Parker, Toms, and Venmo are gaining fans. Each of these companies not only understands what consumers need with crystal clarity, it also proactively shows genuine concern with well-designed products, personalized communications, buttoned-up operations, and easy-to-use customer service. Further, it demonstrates deeper concerns about the state of the broader world.
By applying consistent and rigorous TLC and closely following trailblazer empathy brands, marketers can build their own breakthrough brand that touch consumers at their core and create life-long loyalty.
Casper makes a long-term decision simple, easy, and risk-free
Casper’s success comes from its deep understanding of all the principal friction points in a consumer’s mattress-buying process. Should I get a gel memory foam mattress or innerspring mattress? What if I don’t like my mattress? How do I move this big mattress up flights of stairs into my room? What do I do with my old mattress?
Casper significantly simplified the decision making process—they only carry one mattress model (Tempur-Sealy, for example, sells more than a 100); deliver in a mini-fridge sized box for free; and consumers have 100 days to return it. Their website says, “No springs attached,” which encapsulates the simplicity of Casper’s brand. Every touchpoint and communication is seamless, risk-free, and carried out with a light-hearted relatable tone that feels familiar to the consumer.
Brands could equally achieve breakthrough success by taking a step back, identifying consumers’ obstacles and fears in buying their products and services, and addressing them head on as Casper did. For example, a local bank can offer 1:1 video chat support to help a millennial consumer navigate their investment portfolio or a boutique clothing retailer can offer text-based support to quickly address consumers’ questions about available inventory or package deliveries.
Toms wins die-hard, loyal fans by giving back
Empathy doesn’t necessarily remain limited to providing awesome experiences directly to the consumer. It may also involve helping someone else in need.
Since 2006, for-profit shoe brand Toms has become the poster child of the revolutionary one-for-one model, with founder Blake Mycoski’s promise to donate a pair of shoes for every pair that was sold. Brand marketers that show this level of empathy will carve out a special place in consumers’ minds.
But beware. Today’s savvy consumer will sniff out false pieties. Greater-good requires much more than window dressing. Brands must deliver on their corporate responsibility programs with all the zeal they bring to delivering their bottom lines. Toms' charitable goal requires collaborating with over 100 NGOs and other nonprofit "giving partners" in more than 70 countries. At a smaller scale, brands can make significant strides in their own communities by engaging local staff to consistently support regional chapters of Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other causes that align with their values. Take Panera Bread’s Day-End Dough Nation program, which delivers unsold bread and baked goods to local hunger relief organizations daily.
Casper and Toms show how brands can reach new heights by tapping into empathy—both for direct consumers and also for others. Take a hard look at consumers and their concerns; have the guts to face them head on; and you stand a fighting chance of becoming the next breakthrough brand.