Building empathy as a skill

I have always thought about empathy as a trait people have in varying degrees, but now I see that it really is a skill you can build by being curious, then connecting with people who are different from yourself. 

Adweek: Advertising Has a Crisis of Apathy and Otherness, 2020-Jun-8 by Yusuf Chuku

The answer to the problem of otherness is not sameness; it’s connectedness. Immersive, deliberate and compassionate connectedness. A connectedness between people that’s embodied in a willingness to embrace empathy. A connectedness to our cultural history, and by that I mean a relearning of American history. And a desire to see new faces connected to leadership in the C-suite.

So how do we embrace empathy? We need to understand that empathy is a skill and, like any skill, it takes practice to get better. We need to forget what we think we know about people and be genuinely curious about them. We need to recognize and set aside our own biases and judgment in order to see the world from another perspective.

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How to Identify an Audience You Can Profitably Reach

I know all about selecting the correct target market for a product or service, but I've never seen a methodology for deploying for an audience that I can AFFORD. I wonder how much money I've wasted? I better not think about it too much. 

Bar & Line: How to Identify Your Audience, 2020-Mar-19 by Duncan Geere

You have limited resources to reach people, and you need to deploy them carefully to maximize your impact.

By identifying the goals of your project, you can immediately narrow down your audience further. Think about who's most likely to be do the things that you want them to do - who'll have the time, inclination, and ability to act on the information you're sharing. These people are much more valuable to you than those who don't.

For example, following on from the last step, you're looking for people among the aforementioned groups who regularly donate to charity, and who actively use social media platforms. These are your core targets. They're interested in your subject, and they have the ability to do something about it. Sure, maybe people outside of those groups can do something with your information, but they're less of a priority because the likelihood they'll act is lower.

How can you reach them?

Finally, consider how you can reach these core targets. What tools and resources do you have at your disposal to get your work in front of their eyes?

This is the beginning of a full marketing and PR strategy, of course, but it's important to consider here because if there's no realistic way of getting your work in front of a particular group of people then it's not worth wasting any time targeting them. Concentrate instead on what you can do.

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Less Value in "Lifestyle Marketing"

I'm not sure I agree with all of this, but it really calls 'one-to-one' marketing into question. In a good way. 

I'm a member of many loyalty programs, but I've never earned a reward for a referral. Rather than introduce my friends to a brand, I want to connect with the other people who appreciate the brand. We all have diverse tastes, and I like meeting new people based on one specific shared interest, not because we share a bunch of interests. 

LinkedIn: Why taste communities are the future of marketing, 2020-Jan-21 by Ana Andjelic

Thanks to the Internet and its numerous influence networks, products across categories are now more susceptible to trends than to individual preferences. A show becomes popular because a lot of people watch it, and it’s entirely possible that a big chunk of the show’s audience does it not because it reflects their interests or values, but because everyone else they know is watching a show and they do not want to be left out...

Think about your brand in plural. Just as my Netflix isn’t your Netflix, my pair of Off-White sneakers is not your pair of Off-White sneakers. It doesn’t matter that Netflix is a platform and Off-White sneakers are a physical product: when we apply tagging system and shopping data, each product is worn in a manner that reflect its user.... 

Target communities, not individuals. Every Netflix user belong to three or four taste communities. Members of modern societies belong to many more. No two persons are exactly alike, even those that buy the same products, chose the same brands, and like the same content. There are those who enjoy foreign movies and travel documentaries, horror and romantic comedies, Vineyard Vines and Everlane, sneakers and high jewelry. People are communities they belong to. 

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Creative Houston is a 'modern brand'

Creative Houston is a venture to support Houston’s creative economy by providing evidence and experiences that help creative professionals in their work and their lives. We publicize information about resources in Houston. We also foster a better understanding of how Houston offers a superior environment for making a living through one’s ideas.

Since I started reading the writings of Ana Andjelic, a marketing consultant and sociologist, I've come to see Creative Houston as a "modern brand." Our goal is to leverage culture, build relationships, and spread awareness of a unique experience. Our customer is someone who has the time and resources to think about improving the quality of life for their community. 

The Sociology of Business: The modern brand OS, 2020-Jun-22 by Ana Andjelic

A “modern brand” is simultaneously a concept, a sector, and a business model.

As a concept, modern brands exploit things like culture, taste, creative identity, or one’s social standing. Modern brands gained prominence when the economy shifted from manufacturing to experiences, travel, luxury, and art and design. Modern brands remove nuisances of modern life for a privileged group of people. They invent products, like Thinx or Casper; services, like Uber or DoorDash; or experience like Airbnb or WeWork. They also feature cheeky OOH and social media ads. Modern brands’ hidden function is to create a social and economic distance between the culturally and tech savvy and the rest.

As a sector, modern brands capitalize on the shift from consumers’ accumulation of products to consumers’ desire to demonstrate appreciation for these products.... 

5 criteria for "modern brands," according to Ana Andjelic

  • Awareness over accessibility
    • Instead of aggressively pursuing purchasers, modern brands focus on attracting fans who appreciate the brand's cultural contribution and will spread the word. 
  • Identity over positioning
    • Instead of comparing themselves to their competitors, modern brands strive for a unique identity that speaks to sophisticated tastes. 
  • Creative over commercial operation
    • Modern brands do not claim to manufacture a high-quality product, but rather to represent an exceptional product that raises the bar and establishes new experiences. 
  • Brand is part of the balance sheet
    • Modern brands are managed as long-term investments, and all employees are expected to build trust with audience, helping realize a future for the brand. 
  • Value creation over cost reduction
    • Instead of just scaling production to drive down costs, modern brands are constantly adding value, expanding the product line, improving service, and increasing the interaction between employees, customers, and fans. 

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To deepen loyalty, turn your customers into members

A membership program helps your customers become brand ambassadors, proud to share their insider status with the larger community. If customers can learn from one another, they can build something together. Being a member is much more satisfying than being a customer. 

The Sociology of Business: From Loyalty to Membership, 2020-Feb-11, by Ana Andjelic

In the modern aspiration economy, consumers are fans, influencers, hobbyists, environmentalists, and collectors. Membership programs are designed for them.... 

The keyword here is not necessarily prestige and exclusivity, but identity and belonging. There’s a pure pleasure in the intimacy of consuming together, along with enjoying status within a community. Thanks to a membership in a community, a hypebeast gets access to new product drops and events. This is the domain of intangibles that most loyalty programs fail to deliver, and that membership excels in.... 

Membership is mentorship... define the activity that members can learn from one another. This activity needs to stem from a brand’s role in culture, environment, or society.

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To make a contribution: don't try to fit in

I love the idea of being the lone dissenter so other people have an opportunity to dissent as well.

The Atlantic: The Perks of Being a Weirdo, 2020-Apr by Olga Khazan

Psychologist Solomon Asch is famous for his 'conformity experiments,' but he also studied how dissenters influenced group behavior.... Having just one person who broke with the majority reduced conformity among the responses by about 80 percent. Perhaps the participants in those trials felt as though they and the dissenter could at least be weird together. Interestingly, they were less likely to conform even if the dissenter disagreed with the crowd but was still wrong. The dissenter appeared to give the participants permission to disagree. ...

In a small study, Rodica Damian, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Houston, and her colleagues had college students engage in a virtual-reality exercise in which the laws of physics didn’t apply. In this virtual world, things fell up instead of down. When compared with another group that performed an exercise in which the laws of physics functioned normally, those who had the physics-warping experience were able to come up with more creative answers to the question “What makes sound?”... Damian has a theory she’s researching: that all kinds of unusual experiences can boost creativity. 

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