Are you a match? Creating empathy via Consumer Connects

In 2020, Mondelēz International, the world largest snack company, announced its new consumer-centric approach to marketing. Moving beyond data-driven tactics, the brand aims to create real, human connections with purpose. And Mondelēz is not the only one. More and more brands are investing in connecting with consumers, putting stakeholders in consumers’ shoes to evoke empathy. As Noah Fenn, US Lead, Partnership Sales & Business Development at Google, once said: “Despite all this data, empathy is still the greatest tool in a marketer’s toolbox.” But how do you build consumer empathy?

In our previous blogpost, we interviewed our Consumer Connects expert and Managing Partner Tom De Ruyck on the ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ of Consumer Connects. In this blogpost, we zoom in on how technology helps to create empathy and supports successful Consumer Connect programs. Annelies Verhaeghe, our Head of Platform Innovation and Managing Partner, and Alieke Stubbe, our Senior Product & Innovation Manager, share their perspective.

Consumers are more than data

Q: Creating consumer empathy is high on many organizations’ agenda. But why does it seem so hard to put marketers and other company stakeholders in consumers’ shoes?

Annelies: “Being an expert in consumer-brand collaborations, we notice that many company stakeholders never talk to real consumers. Their knowledge and understanding of consumers are mostly based on abstract representations – such as quotes and stats gathered from various reports. But in the end, you don’t really get to know your consumers based on abstract stats and figures.”

Alieke: “Next to that, in those companies that are already experimenting with ‘consumer connect’ programs, company stakeholders often prefer to talk to consumers that are like them or fit within pre-defined segments. As a result, these connections suffer from a self-selection bias, making them less useful and less relevant. Such an approach enforces marketers to stick to their own bubble of like-minded people and only confirms existing stereotypes.”

Annelies: “We believe it’s time to look beyond the data, the stereotypes, and the segments, to connect to real people and evoke true consumer empathy.”

Evoking empathy through a library of people

Q: In the innovation team, you are working on a much more human-centered approach towards organizing consumer connects. Can you tell us more about that?

Annelies: “Sure! We really want to take marketers and other professionals out of their bubble, out of their comfort zone, and connect them with everyday consumers that are nothing like them. What we are doing is creating a very diverse ‘library of people’ – with different backgrounds, ethnicity, routines, religions, skin types… – for professionals to browse through. Each consumer profile in the library contains the usual socio-demographic variables, but also an extensive description and their personal story. Professionals are invited to read through these human stories and will be triggered to discover more.

Consumer Connect flow

Typically, our ‘Consumer Connect’ program exists of four phases:

  1. inspiring and training stakeholders,
  2. booking a connect request and matching the right consumer with the right professional,
  3. a video call with the consumer, and
  4. collective reflection on the gathered observations.

This library is part of our matchmaking tool, supporting phase two of Consumer Connect programs.

Alieke: “With the matchmaking tool, we allow company stakeholders to browse through the different consumer profiles, using filters (e.g., region, topic, product usage…), reading the stories, looking at the pictures. Next, they can select one or more participants they would like to have a conversation with, and book a video call via the platform. By using the library, we go beyond matching professionals with a consumer merely based on a list of criteria. Our focus is on the experience, on opening professionals’ minds and surprising them with different, but interesting profiles. We are convinced this tool will help professionals to leave their comfort zone and connect with more diverse people. In the end, this will help them to better understand the consumer behind the numbers and the human behind the consumer.”

Annelies: “Our matchmaking tool is all about evoking empathy. Since we start from human stories, it will lead to a better experience and increase the chances of creating a positive disruption during the connect.”

In summary, Annelies and Alieke stress the importance of starting from ‘human stories’ to get the most out of a Consumer Connect program. It’s about going beyond the professional’s own bubble, existing data, and stereotypes, to evoke true consumer empathy. Our proprietary matchmaking tool is at the core of Consumer Connects and supports professionals in better understanding the consumer behind the numbers and ultimately the human behind the consumer.

Curious for more on Consumer Connect? Check here our blog with Tom De Ruyck on ‘The ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ of Consumer Connects’.

Eager to learn more on our Consumer Connect programs? Discover how we can build powerful consumer connections for your brand!

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Annelies Verhaeghe
Head of Research Innovation
Managing Partner InSites Consulting

Contact Annelies