How empathy fuels creative videos

When most businesses and organisations commission video content, the objective is to sell something to the target audience. Whether that’s to sell a product or service, a concept or idea, or to sell a brand; the ultimate aim of most video content is to sell something that will in turn increase revenues.

But that is at odds with what consumers want. Regardless of whether they are actively looking to buy, or just looking for inspiration, no one likes to be sold to. Instead, when it comes to video marketing and advertising, consumers engage with creative and inspiring content that provides them with the information and inspiration to make a decision for themselves.

I recently watched a TEDx Talk by Seung Chan Lim (Slim) on How Empathy Fuels the Creative Process – the inspiration for this article and where the title comes from (thanks Slim). A lot of what he talks about resonated with me, and while the focus of his talk was about being empathetic and therefore more creative, some of his ideas can also apply when you use empathy to produce creative content.

One of the stories he shared was about how we often have preconceived ideas about what the ‘solution’ to a problem or challenge someone faces is. His example was a friend suffering from depression; the solution in his mind was to ‘cheer up’, a logical solution to the problem. In terms of marketing and video content, marketers and creative professionals will often approach content production with the ‘solution’ at the forefront. I.e. your product or services provide a solution to x, y or z, and therefore it is logical that your prospects will welcome your solution with open arms. Of course, Slim’s friend did not find ‘cheer up’ helpful at all, actually it was counterproductive and his solution became part of the problem – you don’t understand me.

Similarly, selling logical solutions for a problem or desire (need) isn’t effective either, because we don’t make decisions based purely on logic. In fact emotions have been proven to be a very important part of the decision making process. I’ve recently come across a research project looking at how people with damage to the brain’s limbic system can’t feel emotions. Surprisingly the research discovered that this also meant they couldn’t make decisions, providing a clear link between emotions and decision making.

By extension this means that to help our customers make decisions about whether or not to engage with our brand, buy our products etc., we need to use emotions and to do this successfully we need to empathise with them.

It’s no good just using any old emotions in a video to aid the decision making process. Simply randomly emoting is not enough! Instead we need to understand how our target audience is feeling, and express this back at them: empathising with them. By doing so the emotional concepts we use will resonant with the audience, making them think, “they understand me” and that engages them and makes them much more receptive to your core message.

Another idea from Slim’s Tedx Talk that I think also applies to video marketing is how empathy can help us create new meaning and value for our audiences. By first listening to our prospects and understanding their emotional response to a particular situation – yes, even B2B consumers get emotional about the things our products and services provide a solution for – we can uncover more creative and meaningful ways of communicating with them.

That’s why the briefing stage of any video production really needs to delve deep into the needs, desires and emotions expressed by your target audience; not just your objectives as a business to sell. By listening and then empathising the stories we tell using video become much more valuable to the audience, and in turn so does your product and service, or brand.

By Rob Edmonds, managing director, NRG Digital