Hey Brands, How About a Little Empathy?

Brands that assume they matter right now may be in for a rude awakening

Hello all, I want to preface this post with a ‘marketing hat alert’. Which means I’m gonna talk shop here. Not because I don’t have something personal to share, I do. It’s 100% personal. It just happens to fall within my area of expertise and passion: marketing. Specifically, marketing with meaning.

Don’t run away yet, I have a feeling you’ll find this interesting if not relevant. I also tend to be entertaining, as many do, when I go on a rant.

Today’s pause is all about how this morning’s one-too-many email became my nugget for this post. I was sitting down to start my regimented day, more so than usual these days. First task: check my emails. (Have I mentioned I’m Gen X?) Email remains my most valuable source of content for me. and I value it as my daily notifier of what’s out there, what’s new, what’s relevant, and most important, what I Iike.

Platforms like Medium, LinkedIn, and Blinkist are some of my favourite curators of content relevant to me. They notify me via email of articles, books and other content that I appreciate. For that, I appreciate and TRUST these brands. They listen and understand m and as a result, provide relevant content. The more we interact, the better they deliver, and so on. The same applies to a select few retail brands when it comes to sending me offers or content that speak to me.

Here’s what I don’t appreciate. EVER:

When I feel like I’m being spoken to like they’ve never ‘met’ me. Pushing irrelevant products or offers that they’d push to anybody, from a company who:

  1. Should know me better since I’m a loyal customer who has agreed to receive their emails
  2. Neglect to show any sign of recognition or appreciation for my ongoing loyalty.

To me, it’s like that person you meet more than once who, upon each encounter, forgets who you are. Every time. No matter how hard you try to be memorable (or is that just me?). You know who I mean. Every instance forcing you to jog their memory to no avail. Yeah. It’s humiliating. Oh the shame!

I ask you: How does that make you feel? Shitty, right? Does it trigger you to be any of the following?

  • Be agressive: Give them the finger (no violence please) and walk away
  • Be Passive: Grate your teeth beneath an inconspicuous grin and make a mental note that this person will NEVER get invited to your birthday party. Ever.
  • Be passive-aggressive: Comment on how they looked much younger/slimmer the last time you met.

However you cope, I judge you not. Safest and wisest answer: Don’t engage.

So what triggered this rant? What sparked the flashback to a multitude of awkward encounters I’ve had to endure? I got an email from a ‘trusted’ retailer – one that sees value in repeatedly reaching out to me ‘during this challenging time’.

Here’s the problem: I DON’T see the value. NONE. Not because I don’t want to hear from them, necessarily, but because they offer NO VALUE to me right now. None, and for so many reasons. In these ‘challenging times’, they:

  • Assure me they’re taking every measure to ensure my safety and those of the community.
    • Kind of irrelevant if their stores/restaurants were forced to close.
  • Share their hope to get through this with me, with ‘sunny days ahead’.
    • From a sunglass company? Really? How contrived, and downright lame-ass.
  • Promoted an offer (a discount in this case) that is in no way special or relevant to me, many times, since COVID-19 hit Canada.
    • Even though we are apparently ‘in this together’
  • And their biggest no-no is this: I had opted in to receive emails from them. Yet they showed no evidence of knowing anything about me, they’re loyal customer.
    • I felt like an idiot, with no one to blame but myself. I had (literally) signed-up.

Today they blew it, they kept ‘talking’ to me, without thinking about the context. They should know better, they’re marketers. Context these days is not only crucial, it’s expected.

I felt like this brand I trusted, and that I believed knew me turned into that forgetful flake of a party pooper. And because it’s email, I don’t feel accountable in any way to be polite, so I walk away. Likely never to return. Bridge burned. No birthday party invite for them!

The more I write about it, the less angry I get. My anger changes to something else, something more damaging to them, a brand I no longer want to be friends with. I’m disappointed, then I’m indifferent and then I hit unsubscribe. Over it.

What was I talking about?


So to all brands big and small. I will give you some advice as both a marketer and an average consumer:

If you have no value to add, then don’t. Go back, discover it, and only contact me when you do. I need to know you’re not a flake.

Successful brands are those that see their brand as a living breathing human being. It’s how they are able truly connect with customers. Right now and in the foreseeable future, brands that understand this will shine. Showing empathy, being sensitive to, and respecting others will be the key to making the most relevant and mutually beneficial connections. Just like their moms taught them.

Dear brands: Have some empathy. Listen, understand, care and be there. If you can’t, don’t.

Dear fellow consumers: Expect nothing less. You deserve respect.

Now hop to it marketers, we’re waiting.

Have a great day, Pausers!

SP Wiseguy out.

3 thoughts on “Hey Brands, How About a Little Empathy?”

  1. Sigh. I’m with you on this 100%. Some brands are doing well at reaching out to me right now – such as Loblaws and Foodland. They have provided info that I want to know, and have offered reassurances backed by action. And then there are the others – in my email most notably cruise companies and travel/cruise booking services. Offering not-all-that-great deals on trips that might not happen, or that I might never book due to fear of on board quarantine! (Can you imagine being in a windowless inside cabins for weeks?) This is not helpful to me right now. They are missing the story entirely. You know what I’d like to know? How are they supporting their international crews? What are the ship chefs making while home with their families? What are the great musicians we met on our trip doing now? How about paying them to record a song and share it. Something human, you know?

    • Wow Gillian, some very insightful ideas here. Imagine the possibilities! A little imagination goes a very long way. Thank for contributing!


Share your thoughts

%d bloggers like this: