Paper Matters Blog
Building Brand Loyalty through Empathy

Understand your audience

How can marketers build brand loyalty in a world full of competition? Stefan Mumaw, Senior Creative Director of Silicon Valley’s First Person Agency, firmly believes that understanding consumers’ emotions is fundamental for success. By understanding their audience, and not forcing their audience to understand them, Mumaw says that marketers can build stories that make true, meaningful connections and build brand loyalty with the people they’re trying to reach. “Knowing what they find value in, the things that they hold up as important in their lives, is key…there is a hole in their heart that you fill in some way, even if you’re filling it with toothpaste or napkins. There is something missing and you, as a marketer, can provide it.” In his creative leadership role, Mumaw is dedicated to understanding consumers above all else. Mumaw views empathy as an essential medium for story-building, as opposed to storytelling,  and takes an approach that calls for the creative talent as First Person to not only be designers—but to be empaths as well. Understanding what makes a person feel, respond and react is the fundamental core of their work and how Mumaw and company build brand loyalty.

Relate to your consumers

In the past, advertisers have received criticism for manipulating the emotions of consumers. “If you are a brand and you want me to feel a way that I don’t feel, and you do things in order to get me to feel that way, that is manipulation,” Mumaw notes. “Empathy is understanding what moves a consumer already and fitting into that authentically. By showing them that you understand how they view things and what they believe, you’re exhibiting empathy rather than manipulating your audience.” And when consumers feel heard and understood, they are more likely to connect with your brand.

Create meaning

Investigating consumer audiences is a favorite part of the process for Mumaw, “I sit down and talk to them in an environment they assign value. Not only read what they say, but look at how they live, the things they find of value in their lives and start to find some insight so I can act on it. That insight becomes a story hook.” Mumaw’s process for creating meaningful marketing campaigns uses a basic story structure. His approach is crafted to involve consumers and give them investment in the story being told, by setting the stage, creating purpose for action, recognizing conflict, experiencing the culminating and decisive moment and arriving at a resolution. This method allows for consumers to participate and find the message the marketer hopes to share, on their own. “Letting consumers fill it in without us ever saying it is the ultimate goal of story-building,” he says.

More than a marketing campaign

The role of empathy in design, marketing and communications is one not to be overlooked. While even the most robust demographics provide only a ballpark connection with your target audience, cultivating an empathetic approach will create brand loyalty by giving people reasons to invest in the story your brand has to tell. Mumaw reminds us that the communications industry is meant to do much more than just convey information to consumers. We’re meant to be story-builders. We’re meant to make people feel. And we’re meant to leave them knowing, for certain, that they’ve been understood.

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