What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and empathy?

by Christopher Seid on February 28, 2012

For creative marketing professionals, writers and designers, or anyone who aspires to connect brands with customers through compelling messages and stories, empathy may be the most valuable quality to have. This is suggested in the article “Brands Be Nimble,” in the most recent issue (Jan/Feb 2012) of The Hub, authored by Ayo Seligman and Kay Whitchurch of Landor’s San Francisco office. They put empathy at the top of the list of principles essential for any company that wants to stay relevant, agile and adaptable in today’s ever-changing and complex business environment. “Empathizing with your audiences creates deeper connections and gives you a greater understanding of the people whose lives the brand seeks to enrich.”

I have read this kind of statement before, in other business books that attempt to identify ideal worker qualities, and where empathy is sited as essential. It was given an entire chapter in one of my favorite books on the creative process, Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind.” Pink defines empathy as “the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling. It is the ability to stand in others’ shoes, to see with their eyes, and to feel with their hearts.”

One of my greatest strengths as a marketing writer is to identify with my audience. Because I am a consumer, too, I’ve often looked at my own behaviors to understand how I might react to an ad or offer I am helping to create. This is qualitative, of course, which is suspect often in the eyes of the quantitative types. But it’s gut reaction, intuition, empathy, which will always be important to the way I do my job and live my life. In fact, one can argue that empathy is essential not just for business, but for a healthy mind and body as well.

 

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The art of the (brand) story

by Christopher Seid on February 13, 2012

I don’t know about you, but I love stories. I don’t care if it’s fiction, non-fiction, a consumer catalog, a web page, a conversation with a friend or stranger, a book on tape, a newspaper insert, matchbook, or flyer for a lost dog thumbtacked to a telephone pole, I am really addicted to words, constantly reading and listening—immersed in story. Any time I have to wait, at the dentist’s office, the train station, to get my kids at school, for dinner to be served, I have to have something to read or listen to. And I prefer this to, say, watching television (the news, especially, which for me is the worst kind of story) when I have a few minutes to kill at the airport, for example. This is because I believe in the story as the foundation for meaning, orientation, balance, direction—the way a compass or GPS helps us orient our bodies in space. Stories not only help me navigate this world, but they fill it with sensation—the lushness of jungle foliage, the drama of weather, the gravity of planets and stars, the subtlety and innuendo of human communication, the rush of traffic, the noise of the New York City subway. I walk away from almost every story feeling more alive than when I walked in. And advertising is no exception. People love to hate advertising, but it is perhaps the most accurate reflection of our culture’s story. I think it was the late Phil Dusenberry, former head of BBDO who once said (I paraphrase), in 10,000 years, when our civilization is unearthed and the fragments dusted off, it will be the advertising that reflects most accurately the era’s narrative. Sure, it’s not high art. It may not even be considered art. But it is story, nonetheless. Like any story, I suppose, we can choose to read and pay attention or not. Depends on how badly we have to have it.

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Attract customers through the heart—measure results with the head

October 20, 2011

A lot of attention and effort is put on managing and measuring data these days—analytics, response rates, testing, segmenting, reading and re-reading data, etc. This is all good and necessary for success. But what is it ultimately that attracts customers and inspires them to take action—to buy from and be loyal to you? Do you […]

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Marketing & Meditation: Where do good ideas come from, anyway?

September 19, 2011

I’ve been studying Eastern philosophy for a lot of years, practicing meditation since I was 17 and yoga off and on for 20 years. I’ve always loved what I call deep subjective thinking, the kind of musing that bumps against pure feeling, where thoughts vanish and the answer to a question is known or recognized […]

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Applying for jobs online: Breakthrough or bust?

August 13, 2011

Before I follow up on my last post, with some thoughts about mentoring, I want to ask if anyone out there has ever been hired through a company’s website—or gotten an interview for that matter? Okay, there are a few. Now, let me rephrase the question. How many of you were hired as middle managers […]

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Really good copy—in really unexpected places

July 1, 2011

I don’t know about you, but I’m not one who typically reads the labels on basic cleaning supplies I buy, such as laundry detergent or furniture polish. But ever since discovering, serendipitously, method® cleaning supplies, this is sure to be a new and exciting practice for me. (Disclaimer: The only reason I’m including the registered […]

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The advertising creative’s survival guide to the future

June 19, 2011

Last month I attended an interesting panel discussion at Atlanta’s branch of the Savannah College Art & Design (SCAD). The discussion was part of the school’s two-day event called “Out to Launch,” where graduating students get a chance to strut their stuff to professionals from Atlanta’s advertising and marketing community. It was a great couple […]

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Where have all the (creative) copywriters gone?

June 2, 2011

I’m sorry this blog has been collecting dust the past month or two. It’s been a busy time for me both professionally and personally, so I have had to prioritize my time and step away from this. I really love writing this blog. It gives me a chance to get my thoughts down in pixels […]

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L.L.Bean Signature Catalog: Look Different

February 26, 2011

I was contemplating my next blog post—itching to write something about how much catalogers needed to innovate, to do something different and fresh to break through and capture attention and imagination of customers in a noisy marketplace—when, to my surprise, the new L.L.Bean Signature catalog showed up in my mailbox. The new Spring 2011 catalog […]

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Do tablets and ebook readers = the end of print?

January 16, 2011

About 12 years ago, when the Internet was in the midst of its meteoric rise, I had a debate with my boss about whether or not electronic media spelled the end of the printed word, especially books and magazines. He was adamant that print would never go away, that “there’ll always be books.” I remember […]

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