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Successful content marketing is about creating a real connection between your audience and your brand. We know that marketing campaigns are designed to prompt a response (and usually a purchase) from the audience, but the challenge is to keep evolving your approach to avoid becoming tired, predictable or obvious. It’s time to talk about empathetic marketing.

What is empathetic marketing?

The notion of empathetic marketing isn't new but the ongoing evolution is a result of real investment by organisations to understand their target personas. By creating content that resonates strongly and evokes a sense of personal identification in the viewer we can increase the likelihood of them being compelled to act. Rather than sharing a direct call to action, more successful brands put themselves in the place of their target persona. This helps to them to create content that strikes a chord on a personal level, often meeting a need that isn’t necessarily directly connected to the product or service on offer.

A key component of this style of marketing is authenticity. Audiences need to feel that the campaign is genuine and not purely motivated by profit. The best examples of this style of marketing unite viewers with a common and relatable feeling that speaks directly to their world view.

A simple example of this in the retail market is LUSH, a beauty brand that is all about natural products. Their tagline is "Fresh, handmade cosmetics" and as part of a content marketing campaign talking about how their products are made, they put together a behind-the-scenes video series, showcasing some of their most popular products.

This campaign really spoke to their target persona - a customer who cares about the environment, uses fresh, natural, organic and ethically sourced ingredients and materials. The video helps to support their brand message and showcases the human part of the brand. By taking a whistle-stop tour of the factory it reinforces the notion that as a consumer, it's safe to consume these products and a positive buying choice.

The importance of creating personas

Empathetic marketing campaigns are often developed by creating customer personas, allowing marketing teams to build a picture of the kind of person they’re trying to appeal to. These personas are created by marketers putting themselves in the shoes of their ideal customer - highlighting causes that might be important to that person, concepts that they would respond to, and emotions that they might connect with. Targeting specific personas allows marketers to create campaigns that resonate with the right people, making for more effective communications and a stronger brand profile. One of our partners, HubSpot, has a great simple persona creation tool which is a good starting point for anyone wanting to start building their target profiles.

Why the right images are so important 

According to an MIT study, the brain can process an image in as little as 13 milliseconds, including identifying the subjects and concepts it shows. In an age where we are consuming media at a faster pace than ever before, often across multiple devices concurrently, anything that can increase the speed at which our audience engage with our content is very welcome.

Surveying over 5,700 marketers, the 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report found that 80% use visual assets in their social media marketing and 32% rank visual images as the single most important form of content for their business.


Photo by Rosemary Ketchum from Pexels

When considering empathetic marketing we need to focus on how effective images are at stimulating an emotional reaction which, as we discussed above, is crucial in creating a real connection between brand and their audience. A 2016 Nielsen study found that ads with the best emotional response generated a 23% lift in sales volume, so pitching this correctly can have a real impact on your campaign’s success. A well-chosen image encourages the audience to form their own interpretation, fitting the image to match their experience and circumstance. While campaigns are designed to have broad appeal, allowing for a personal emotional response to a universal or widely experienced concept or sentiment encourages real connection from the audience.

How your DAM solution can help

To make it easier for you to select your images with a focus on the emotions they inspire, rather than the subjects they contain, you can make some simple changes to how you use your Digital Asset Management solution.

Logistically, this means thinking about how to tag and categorise assets so that they can be found for use in empathetic marketing. Your customer personas will help guide the metadata you use for your images to make it easier to find relevant imagery in your future marketing campaigns. For example, tags could reflect the emotion that the image evokes (e.g. happiness, curiosity, compassion), the target persona, or demographics the image might appeal to (e.g. millennials, freelancers, CEOs). For broader themes it can also be useful to consider the brand values that you’re trying to communicate for your business (e.g. trustworthy, caring, innovative). Tagging your assets from multiple angles will allow you to widen the pool for imagery when creating new content, helping you to find effective images quickly and easily.


Whilst this approach is a good start to tagging your images more effectively, there are other challenges presented with this method. As with all metadata entry, you are relying on one user’s subjective opinion of what information to record. However, whereas most people can agree that an image contains certain objects (a student, a campus lawn), they might have very different emotional reactions when looking at the image. For example, a young person of school-leaving age (perhaps the intended audience for a campaign) might respond very differently from the digital archivist who’s doing the tagging.

Getting someone who is representative of your target audience to tag an image would be the best bet - but is this practical? It means thinking upfront about how an image might be used, so you can think about the demographic/persona you want it to appeal to, and the emotional reactions you want. Then there’s the actual tagging - how do you find the right people to provide the tags?

One interesting possibility is to consider crowdsourcing sites such as UsabilityHub, which enables you to get feedback on an image from thousands of people who are selected according to criteria you can specify to match your required cohort. This could provide an objective, evidence-based way for you to generate suitable tags, for example by asking the question “How does this image make you feel?” and collating the responses into metadata for the asset. Another option is for DAM solutions to close the feedback loop and capture information on how effective each image is within the context it is being used.

Looking to the future


To really make the most of all the information available, the DAM industry should be looking towards better integration with content management systems and other marketing platforms so that the analytics they provide can be fed back into the DAM solution.

For example, if the content on a page of a university’s website is aiming to inspire applicants, a measure of its effectiveness could be to track the click-through rates of people asking for more information on how to apply. This level of tracking is usually in place for most marketing campaigns but rarely linked to the images accompanying the content.

Tracking the previous effectiveness of an image, as another aspect of its metadata, would allow marketers to make more informed decisions when creating content. Any business looking to capitalise on empathetic marketing should be searching for solutions that make finding effective images easy. A tailored DAM solution with the ability to add metadata from multiple ‘viewpoints’ will allow teams to make the most of existing images, ensuring they’re used in more strategic and often less obvious ways. Successful empathetic marketing involves some advance planning to create customer personas and identify the desired emotional response but the pay off in real audience connection and improved brand perception is more than worth the effort.

If you'd like to review your current Asset Bank set up or chat to us about how best to optimise the way you tag your assets contact our team today 


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