How Do Brands Use Empathy To Create Value


    Excerpted from Forging An Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. Copyright © 2019 by Lindsay Pedersen. Published by Lioncrest Publishing.

    Ironclad brand
    geralt / Pixabay

    Ironclad brand strategies reflect the emotional life of their target customer. They honor that through everything they deliver. They are empathetic before, during, and after a person becomes a customer. They are fascinated by and curious about their customers and the problem the brand solves for those customers.


    Q1 hedge fund letters, conference, scoops etc

    Listen to your customers. What essentially matters to them? How might your strengths deeply help them to thrive?  Developing empathy starts with listening and being fascinated with the customer and the problem she faces.

    In Power of Moments, Chip Heath and Dan Heath share the research findings of social psychologist Harry Reis, who sought to distill relationship science to the single idea of responsiveness: relationships are stronger when we perceive the other to be responsive to us. This is a hallmark of an ironclad brand. Ironclad brands seek to understand their customer rather than first seeking to be understood. They genuinely care about their customers. They view customers as the human beings they are in the business of serving. They care, and in return, the customers care too.

    Empathy requires you to reach outside your brand’s walls. It stretches you, helping you tap into a greater source of creativity and meaning. It reinvigorates you, and it also fosters an outside-in, customer-centric perspective. Get outside your conference room. Get attuned to the people your product is devoted to. It is hard not to feel empathy when you regularly talk to your target customer.

    Find depth in the mundane. Empathy need not be dramatic. For example, wiping counters might seem mundane at first  – that’s okay – find depth in it. My experience helping develop Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Cleaner showed me that kitchen counter cleaning is a proxy for nurturing. When your counters are clean, you feel like a good caregiver.

    Harvey-Davidson provides huge meaning to its customers. The feeling of freedom and breaking through boundaries fills the souls of Harley riders. Part of this brand’s success in creating and delivering on such an empathetic promise is that the company actively seeks customers to become employees. It is not a stretch to understand those who share the Harley-Davidson values. One reflexively feels empathy toward one’s own people.

    And consider OXO Good Grips. OXO was created by a husband for his wife. Company founder Sam Farber knew intimately his wife Betsey’s difficulty working small mechanisms because of her arthritis. As he watched her struggle with a vegetable peeler, he wondered why such everyday, even simple, tools had to hurt to use. Sam empathized with his wife and other arthritis sufferers, thereby tapping into an insight that enabled him to create an empathetic brand.

    Empathetic is being fascinated by your customers’ needs (clean counters, transportation, sore wrists) despite their mundane cloak. To the customer, that need represents something bigger. Be open and humble enough to see your customers’ needs as a doorway into something profound.


    Lindsay Pedersen is the author of Forging An Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. She is a brand strategist and leadership coach who views brand as a blend of science, intuition, behavioral economics, and ancient storytelling. She developed the Ironclad Method™ while building brands with companies such as Starbucks, Clorox, Zulily, T-Mobile, IMDb, and burgeoning startups. Lindsay lives in Seattle with her husband and two children. Keep in touch with Lindsay through her website: and follow her on Twitter.

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