Marketing’s Lack of Empathy in a Pandemic

Where is True Empathy?

Any number of marketing media articles are focused on the economics of the pandemic.  From spend estimates, sales estimates, and consumer psychology.  Especially as we head into the holiday season, we are being bombarded with news and advice about how to position, brand, and sell in these “unprecedented times.”

But where is the recognition and realization of the impact that this pandemic has held?  Where is the realization that people may not be ready to spend, or even not have the money to spend?  Granted, marketing’s job is to get people to buy things.  Yet there seems to be a lack of attention to the reality of the economics, hardships, and uncertainty that many are experiencing.

Are marketers and marketing media ignoring the economic realities of the pandemic? At the time of this recording, the United States unemployment rate is 7.9% with 10.7 million jobs lost since the start of the lockdowns.

According to a McKinsey Study, Consumers are cutting back to the essentials, they are leaving brand loyalty behind.  Both Consumers and businesses are re-evaluating their spending and focusing on value. Nearly 75% of consumers have changed brands or store preferences during the pandemic.

On the one side, The concept of empathy has made numerous headlines, but simple observation shows that empathy is being used as a marketing tactic, rather than presenting true empathy.  Countless articles tell marketers to use empathy to reach people, but they still focus on gaining more sales and leads, which ultimately conflicts with their own advice.  True empathy would realize that there is no simple road map to navigate these circumstances.  People are deeply impacted, and they will react in many different – and unpredictable- ways.

One study says that consumers want brands to move on from COVID, another says that brands shouldn’t use humor, another shows that consumers want brands to lead in providing security and hope.

Can we learn from this that there is no single way to approach people, especially in a high-stress uncertain time?