EMPATHIZING MEANS MUCH MORE THAN KNOWING.
A distinctive and significant way of presenting learnings arising from a exploratory study on a given target, from which we have to develop insights to build a brand’s architecture, to innovate, etc.- is to present such surveyed information by means of storytelling.
Maximizing the differences we can distinguish two types of presentations: those which display the information as to denotatively express a knowledge that is juxtaposed and hierarchically deployed, and those that appeal to the connotative use of language by means of interpretations that are based on theoretical criteria and that are presented in a narrative format that follows a logical approach.
This ability to express our ideas taking over the distinctive narrative
characteristics of a person telling a story is what is known as ‘storytelling’. This way of organizing the material meets the challenge of generating new learnings and inspiring creative work.
Before delving into how storytelling is structured, it is important to review what insight means, as it is a concept that is usually tackled ambiguously. An insight is not a topic. It is not a description of habits and practices either. It is not a product’s attribute or benefit. It is not even the observation of the shopper’s or consumer’s behavior. And it is not a value judgment. It is not a collection of data, facts or knowledge associated with the consumer, and it is not the linear presentation of a tension.
An insight is a plausible statement that reveals something new and relevant that is moving for the target, inspiring new ideas for the brand. It reveals something new about what the target believes, thinks and feels. It strikes them as impacting but at the same time remains credible since it is something that drives them into questioning and redefining what they perceive or know. Revealing something new does not necessarily mean that you should unveil an entirely new truth but actually that we should aim at shedding light on something that has remained latent, or unexplained or something that may be expressed and represented in another category and which seems relevant and relatively originally applicable to our category.
Relevance is a key element for an insight to help us build the possibility for a target to relate to it. Therefore, in order to raise empathy in the target, it is essential to start off with a tension capable of driving target’s desire towards satisfaction, making that need for satisfaction their motivation. Identifying a tension is certainly not enough to make the target effectively relate to the insight, but, without a tension, any value proposal will highly unlikely become relevant or moving for that target.
When we manage to identify, what I propose to call a ‘productive’ tension, meaning a real or imaginary dissatisfaction tension, it will be the storytelling characteristic elements which will help us foster empathy, a feeling through which
“A marketing insight is always built as a concept that serves as a bridge to link the target to the brand’s value proposal, …”
the target perceives that what is missing concerns them.
A marketing insight is always built as a concept that serves as a bridge to link the target to the brand’s value proposal. If we, on the contrary, only focused on something inherently related to the consumers, we would be dealing with sociological, anthropological, or psychological data and, consequently, it would become highly improbable for us to inspire and develop new ideas for the brand.
Therefore, the development of insights forces us to go beyond our knowledge of consumers, beyond empathy, and to do so it is important to learn how to interpret them. We should not mirror them. Because, if we are able to unveil a significant tension for the target, and we approach it considering it a self-improvement desire and from a perspective and communication codes familiar to the target, as a subsequent effect the target will relate to the concept.
The necessary elements to keep in mind for our insights to be inspiringly presented are the following:
Narrowing down the scope of the topic. It is important to determine and accurately pinpoint what we will talk about. When that is not properly done, anxiety may arise which, at the same time, may result in distraction, absent-mindedness, frustration and a lack of interest that may gradually become indifference.
Context. The context helps us define the temporal and value spaces we are in, and how this environment favors or hinders our target’s advance towards what they desire.
Objectives. All great stories are based on the objectives and goals that their protagonists embrace. Intentions are what, consciously or unconsciously, moves them towards their objectives. Plot. The plot is the core element of any story in which the protagonist’s desires are confronted and threatened by all the obstacles he has to face. The plot for us is made up of the tensions that we may have discovered, which will be the “dramatic input” upon which we will develop the insights.
Resolution. All plots reach their climax when the proposed tensions are solved. The level of satisfaction that the resolution will provide us with will be consistent with the quality of the portrayed tension and the efficiency with which we solve it. Analogically, the epilogue includes the consequences that are drawn from the insights and that become suggestions for the brand.
Character: The story becomes effective and appealing only when the audience is able to relate to the character. However, it is essential not to do away with the proper and distant point of view that allows us to gain adequate perspective.
Therefore, the main challenge to be faced when it comes to storytelling is: How to offer target interpreting criteria that will facilitate our “reading” of them? How should we texture their “characterization” in order to get the audience to step into the character’s shoes? If the brand and the agencies aim at working on establishing a connection and bond with the target, their preliminary work requires them not only to understand the target but also to empathize with them. If unacknowledged identification hinders the analysis, acknowledge identification is the exact emphatic impact spot that will provide us with really sharpened sensitivity in order to achieve subsequent bonding.
BMC Innovation Company Content Director-Partner. Licentiate in Psychology (University of Buenos Aires –UBA–). Post-graduate course in Market Research, Corporate Image, and Public Opinion Research Strategies (UBA). Master’s degree in Cultural Sociology (IDEAS –Buenos Aires–). 28 years of experience in Management, Marketing and Research consulting, with a wide range of experience in: Change, Creativity and Innovation, Organizational Culture and Behavior, and Trends and Markets Research.