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5 Stories: How Your Brand Can Lead With Empathy

You want to build a brand that people will care about. Like, really care about.

You don’t just want to sell to your audience, you want them to buy into you. You want to connect.

We get it. As a creative partner, we’ve become experts at harnessing empathy to form real, emotional bonds with an audience and inspire them to take positive action. 

Over the years, we’ve learned that there’s nothing (NOTHING!) more effective than telling stories that move people. In fact, messages delivered as stories are 22x more memorable than facts. 22x!

Have you ever been so moved by something that you physically felt it in your whole being? Goose-bumps, chills, unfiltered emotion? Good stories are visceral. They stay with us. They change us.

Empathy storytelling breaks down the barriers between us and reminds us that we’re all connected through our shared humanity.

But how do you show up using empathy and stay sincere? And what does brand empathy *actually* mean in real, everyday, every way practice?

Enter our 5 Stories. We’re taking everything we know about building brand stories that matter and sharing our pro tips in a five-part, super smart content series. Exciting, right? Subscribe here (if you haven’t already).

And it all begins with empathy because that’s where every great story starts. No exceptions. 


Step 1: Start by identifying what brands or storytelling resonates with you

It may sound counter-intuitive. This is about your audience, after all.

But it helps to start somewhere you know well: yourself, and the things that move you towards making choices.

Think back to the last time you were moved by a brand’s content. At Make Us Care, we loved Elvie’s Pumping Unplugged campaign. It’s SO good. It’s funny, it’s informative, it’s turning something that’s often a taboo (aka breast pumping!) into something engaging and, above all, real.

Was the last thing that moved you a video? An image? A long-form article?

92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story. Reflect on the last brand that resonated with you and take note. 

How can you start showing up in a way that will make people care? 

The more you tap into your intuition about what moves you, the more you’ll understand how to tell stories that foster empathy and resonate with others. Trust us. This is the BEST way to get into this mindset.

Step 2: Understand what your audience—and the world—wants and needs NOW

2019 was the year of being customer-centric.

The 2020s are all about going one step further and becoming customer-obsessive

It all starts by listening — really listening — and showing up in a way that makes your customers feel seen and heard.

Because while we can’t walk in our customer’s shoes, we *can* be present with them and listen.

Empathy is the difference between saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” and replying with “I know how you feel — that happened to me. Tell me about it?” — and actually listening to the answer. 

It’s also the difference between caring about your customers numerically and personally. Empathy doesn’t require us to have the exact same experiences as our customers. Instead, as Brene Brown says, it’s about connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance.

It’s about getting curious – insanely curious about people, how we’re connected to them and what makes them (and us) behave the way they do.

Empathy is the ingredient that will drive social change and blaze the way for people, generation after generation.

At Make Us Care, we use a little something called the 5 Stories Canvas. 

It’s our way of getting inside the heads and hearts of our clients and their customers, and it answers questions like: What issues are most concerning them as they read the news? How are they feeling about the post-pandemic world? What’s their biggest problem right now and how can your brand help solve it?

Simon Sinek coined the idea of starting with why. We say start with your customers’ why, not your company’s. (Your company’s why lives in your Purpose Story, but here? We’re talking about empathy.)

Get obsessive about the emotional drivers behind your customer’s behaviour — and fulfill it. 

Step 3: Identify your Empathy Story

Picture the scene: one minute you’re in the office, the next you find yourself on national news with the opportunity to reach thousands of potential customers. What do you say to them? 

Or, more importantly, how do you want them to feel

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: Today’s consumers are discerning AF and with good reason. They care about price, yes, but to really win them over you need bucketloads of integrity. 

What do you stand for? What’s the driving force behind the work you do everyday? How are you proving that in action? Why should your customers care? 

It’s not just about value, it’s about yours and your customers’ values

How are you actively sharing yours?

Because once you do and people know them and see themselves in them, they’ll start sharing your values for you. That’s the beauty of empathy storytelling. Move your audience with your story and, in turn, they’ll be fuelled to do the same with those around them.

Step 4: Make your story human and show that you’re listening

RIP service with a smile.

Putting a polished face on your branding will no longer cut it.

We’re operating in a post-filter era, where consumers are crying out for emotional connection. 

Put simply: people want to believe that the brands they engage with understand their struggles, and maybe even share them, too.

This doesn’t mean shying away from celebrating your successes. No. On the contrary, your audience wants to know that your success came with the kind of struggle they can see themselves in.

Examples: Reflect on what really led you to start your business. A tried-and-tested way we use to help our clients find their story is through a problem they personally experienced that they felt compelled to help solve. It’s personal, it’s topical, it’s relatable.

When brands reveal their vulnerability, they tap into a sense that we’re all connected through our shared humanity regardless of who we are or where we come from. It becomes less about “you” and “me”, and reminds us that, instead, we are “we’. 

Oh, and one more thing on this point: In telling your story, leave enough space for your audience to see themselves in it, too. 

One of our mantras is ‘don’t share a point without a story and don’t share a story without a point.’

Step 5: Know that you can’t afford to do marketing without meaning

A meaningful brand is defined by its impact on our personal and collective wellbeing, along with its functional benefits.

Over the course of 8 years, Havas analysed over 1,500 global brands across 15 industries and conducted more than 300,000 consumer interviews. Their findings? The brands that consumers perceived to be the most meaningful outperformed the market by 206% over a ten-year period. 

Your brand content’s purpose is to educate, inform, entertain, inspire, reward and help. But it’s also to listen. And, no matter what your business, thinking about content as community-building first, conversion-driven second will pay some serious returns further down the line. 

“Empathy is the ingredient that will drive social change and blaze the way for people, generation after generation.”

In a world that shouts, be brave enough to listen.


Make Us Care is a team of strategists, storytellers and visual creators who have been bringing ideas to life for well over a decade. 

We regularly run 5 Stories workshops tailored to you and your business. Whether you’re in need of powerful copy, revitalised branding or otherwise, we’d love to chat.


Sources:

Amanda Baker
Amanda Baker

Co-Founder at Make Us Care. I’m here to help founders, leaders and their teams build brands people actually care about. HELL YEAH profit matters but people matter sooooo much more.

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