I’ve been working in marketing for over 25 years and have worked with over 150 brands throughout Australasia. I’m amazed that brands are still putting themselves first, making themselves the hero of their own story.

Big mistake.

As a result they focus their marketing messaging on how good they are, and what they have achieved. They get caught up in the bragging and promising game. The problem with this approach is that the brands lack authenticity and empathy. Like the braggart at the party, they get so caught up in their own sense of importance they fail to listen to what their prospects are really wanting. They fail to stand out and connect. No one likes a smart arse.

It may sound harsh, but your customers don’t really care about your brand. They care about themselves, and you should too.

If you want to grab and keep your audience’s attention, you need to make them the hero of your brand story. Your prospective customer, just like any good hero, is facing a challenge. They have a problem, and you have a product or service they need to solve it.

Your job is to play the role of the mentor in the story. The person with the right kind of heart and experience to help your heroic customers overcome their problems and win the day. Every hero needs a mentor. Luke Skywalker has Yoda, Frodo has Gandalf, your customer has you.

The mentors role is to help the hero reach their destination and give them a plan and emotional support to help them along the way. Emotional support is all about demonstrating empathy.
So how do you do it? You need to start with gaining a deep understanding and care for the issues your customers are facing. There’s a famous Red Indian proverb that says…You can’t get to truly know someone until you have walked in their moccasins for 3 moons. Spend time walking in your customer’s moccasins. Empathy starts with understanding.

What does making your customer the hero and being empathetic look like in practise?

Consider these two sentences:

“Our commitment is to complete every project on time, within budget, and to your complete satisfaction.”
Who’s the hero? You are. You’re talking about you and all the awesome things you do—and, let’s be honest, no one likes to talk to someone who only talks about themselves.

Compare with this message:

“You’re looking for a company that will go above and beyond while completing your project on time and within budget, and we’ve built our reputation on that commitment.”
Here the customer is the focus. You’re centered on what they’re looking for and show your understanding of their needs and wants. As you can see in this example, when we put the customer as the hero, we can still make the same points—on time, on budget, complete satisfaction, and commitment—we’re just shifting the focus. We’re demonstrating empathy and understanding of their issues.

Empathetic statements in your marketing start with words like:

“We understand how it feels to…”
“Nobody should have to experience…”
“Like you, we’re frustrated by…”

Donald Millar, creator of the famous story brand framework expresses the concept of empathy beautifully….
“As people, we trust others who understand us. And we trust brands that understand us, too. That’s why it’s critical that you show your customers that you understand their pains and frustrations. When we empathize with our customers’ dilemmas, we create a bond of trust. Oprah Winfrey says the three things every human being wants most are to be seen, heard, and understood. That’s the essence of empathy”

A brand who does this really well is Nike. Check out this brilliant campaign called “Find your greatness” from 2012.

Famed screenwriting coach Robert McKee says that to be successful today we need to move from brand-centric, ego-centric marketing to customer-centric story-driven marketing.

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