I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a range of interesting, enticing people and businesses. Naturally, I tend to be drawn toward those that already reflect the ideals and stories about which I’m passionate (for example, health and wellness brands). Also naturally, people and businesses who share my ideals tend to be drawn to me, as a person who can better package and deliver the story of who they are. But, I’m careful not to limit myself to only those categories with which I’m comfortable, as I’m still in a phase of learning, and sometimes I find myself working on quite different projects with quite different individuals. Even still, I don’t find this particularly difficult.
Good marketing simply requires good acting, and good acting simply requires phenomenal empathy.
Empathy: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.
To tell a story, whether it is the story of a script or the story of a brand, one must fully and truly be able to place himself in very same shoes as the character at the very center of that story. In the case of the marketer, that character is the customer. What is it that the customer thinks, sees, desires? What does the customer do every day? How does that make him feel?
I recently wrote copy for a sort of e-commerce discovery site for very artsy people. I like art and discovering things, but I had never really engaged on a digital level. So before I began to work, I dove fully into comparable sites and brands. Over the next week, I spent a lot of time exploring, discovering, riding my bike, pausing often to snap pictures. It sounds so simple as I write it all down here, but collectively, the process really altered my whole mindset. Small actions, coupled with open-mindedness, had yielded a new type of sensitivity to beauty and uniqueness; in other words, they had yielded the mindset of the targeted consumer. By acting like him, I understood. And after understanding, I could write an authentic story about him and for him.
Of course, some people will argue that such minuscule steps can hardly be considered anywhere near comparable to the excruciating preparation of the actor. On the most basic level, however, the principles are the same: to tell a story, you must understand the character at the center of it.
In marketing, the character is not the brand, but the customer. Understand the customer, emphasize with him.
Act his part. Tell his story.