Perspective, Empathy and the Art of Marketing

Oct 09, 2013

Martha France

It struck me on a recent visit to a local playground: "Boy that play-set is small!" I had first visited this park when my child was just a toddler. Back then, this play-set looked enormous to me and I shadowed my youngster's every step, nervous they would plunge into the mulch far below at any moment. 


Perhaps you have had similar experiences as your own children have grown or looking back on your own childhood. My parents have this rocking chair which, according to my memory, is huge ala the iconic chair used by Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann character. The fact is, when I see that chair in real life today, it is much smaller than I recall.

These common examples of the power of perspective are good reminders to us to raise our awareness of how perspective affects us as marketers. Because of perspective, two different people will see the same thing completely differently. Or, as the above examples illustrate, perspective can even make the same person interpret the same thing differently depending on their current environment or life stage.

The personalization and customization mandate
From a marketing standpoint, understanding our customers’ perspectives has never been more important. Personalized messaging is required to rise above all of the competing messages and capture attention in a non-intrusive way. Furthermore, today customers expect a customized experience when engaging with products and services. In response, more and more we turn to “big data,” including social profile data and behavioral data, so we can divide customers into smaller, more clearly defined segments than we could with demographic data alone.

Empathy completes the picture
Although psychographic data helps to more specifically define a segment, it does not spell out their perspective. This is where the science of marketing feeds into the art of marketing. We need to take what we know and imagine what our perspective would be if we were in their shoes. A recent Scientific American article cites a study which found evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s empathy. The study noted that literary fiction focuses on the psychology of characters and, “often those characters’ minds are depicted vaguely, without many details, and we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations.” Perhaps to become masters of personalization, marketers need to become better at filling in the gaps in the data and become more empathetic to the customer segments and personas we define.

Beyond shrinking play-sets and rocking chairs, it is important to remember how much perspective impacts interpretation. As we develop personalized messaging and customized experiences it is important to not only define segments and personas but try to understand the perspectives of the people they represent. The good news is that developing this sense of empathy will be an asset not only to your marketing career but to your character as well. 

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Tags: big data, messaging, marketing, personalization, perspective, psychology, character, personas

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