Marketing trend: Empathy is essential in 2021

by: Amy Blasco

After the year we’ve had, it’s easy to agree that everyone could use a little empathy right now.

In a recent poll conducted by marketing research firm Material+, at least 50 percent of American consumers said our country is experiencing an extreme public health, financial and racial crisis.

While many people are feeling overwhelmed by current events, they’re decidedly underwhelmed by traditional marketing and advertising tactics. Consumers have little tolerance for brands talking about themselves and their products. They want to know how brands will help make their lives better—now and in the future.

What’s the best way to do this? Develop content that is genuinely empathetic and focuses on meeting your audience’s needs. Here is a three-step creative process with examples from some of Verdin’s clients.

Start by listening

The pandemic has altered people’s behaviors considerably, but it’s also changing the way they look at the world. Do you know what your customers or clients want right now? If the answer is “no,” it’s time to do some digital listening. You can do this by sending out a survey or reading comments on apps or websites frequently used by your audience demographic. And even if you answered “yes,” it’s still smart to keep on top of what people are saying because needs are always changing. People will respond best to content that acknowledges these changes.

Tell authentic stories

Once you’ve listened to your audience, put yourself in their shoes. Research shows that people listen more to those with whom they can relate, so your brand’s content should show that you share the same values. This can be done by telling real-life stories or fictional stories that are based in reality.

For this campaign, Idler’s Home and the Idler family wanted to connect to the community in a humorous way. Rather than promoting holiday sales, they acknowledged how strange the year has been and thanked the Central Coast for their support.

Visit Camarillo’s most recent campaign flipped traditional tourism advertising on its head by inviting visitors to “take a walk on the mild side.” The creative took into consideration that lots of people—especially families—have had enough surprises in 2020 and are looking for ways to vacation safely

Add value to people’s lives, digitally

The pandemic has forced brands to communicate primarily through digital platforms, a trend marketing experts predict will continue into 2021 and beyond. So it’s important to think of creative ways your brand can add value to your audience’s lives, such as useful tools or immersive online experiences

Ventura County Coast created an online quiz to help potential visitors “find your vibe” and the activities and attractions they would most enjoy based on their personalities. The quiz asks a handful of short questions and then links to itineraries for the region’s three target audiences. It makes planning a trip easy and fun!

If you need help developing empathetic and authentic content for your brand, contact Verdin at

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