No one seeks to fail, but brands can end up there. At Modern Climate we believe brands can "see" how to succeed with consumers.

So it's summer. And in our house that means baseball. My 9-year-old son has been patiently waiting all year to hang out with his fellas, work on his skills and maybe dream just a little that he's a big leaguer.

Over breakfast, I hear today is the first day of practice. He's pumped, because the first day of practice is uniform day. And for a guy that's been wearing costumes and playing pretend his entire life, this uniform is key part of his "I'm a legitimate baseball player" persona.

I go to the office that day. Then I see this photo from my wife via text.

Boy in baseball uniform holding trophy.

Oh sweet joy. I'm thinking this guy looks happy, and more than just his uniform, he received a sweet bag and even a water bottle. High-five! I'm thinking this is gonna be a great summer.

And then my wife hits me with the message I wasn't expecting, like a caption from Crazytown: Your son says "the sponsor is being selfish."

Selfish? Selfish. What kind of word is that? What kind of thought like that comes from a 9-year-old baseball player. I head straight for my boy when I get home that evening.

"Hey buddy, looks like you got some great stuff at practice."

"Um. Uh-huh, I guess."

"Hmmm. Can you tell me what's wrong?"

"Dad, they're just putting their name on everything. I just wanted a baseball shirt with numbers, so you know, so I look like a baseball player. They're being selfish."

Acting selfishly is too easy. This applies to people, business and brands. I suppose it's a part of our natures. Meaning, it's easy to think about and act on our wants, our needs, our desires. It's much more difficult to act with the interest of others in mind.

So what's this have to do with strategy?

Brands can better use the power of empathy for their own selfish gain. Seriously, another piece on empathy? I know, I know. Empathy is the marketing buzzword right now. But I needed to write this because I feel empathy has more to offer beyond a shallow guiding principle for action (yet please act with empathy and do it more often).

How about we selfishly use empathy to see brand opportunity to make consumer highs higher and prevent consumer lows from ever happening in the first place? In our data-driven, algorithm-proven, I-can-justify-it-with-numbers climate, it's tempting to form consumer strategy relying solely on our logic and rationale. Tempting, but don't do it.

Back to summer baseball at my house. Who would have thought that what should have been recognized as a brand's generous act of community support could have gone so badly?

Who would have thought a 9-year-old baseball player would spread negative sentiment about selfishness with his parents—the prime targets for this particular brand?

Who would have thought that you couldn't endear a 9-year-old to your brand by giving him free stuff (even with your logo prominently displayed on everything)?

Who could have thought this? This is not a rhetorical question. A 9-year-old who just wants to look like a baseball player, that's who.

Empathy through appreciating their journey

Dale Carnegie is still right, "Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want."

To win friends and influence people, empathy can be used as a brand's strategic tool to help broadly see and understand what the consumer wants as consumers go about achieving their needs. At Modern Climate we do this for our clients with a method called journey mapping.

We use journey mapping as assumptive method to help brands "see." More than quickly ending up with a complete picture of the consumer experience, valuable in its own right, journey mapping helps us better understand why consumers think and feel the way they do over time.

This understanding has many up-sides, among them:

  • Appreciate and see where your brand can and should do better based upon what it promises to do for consumers, directly feeding product innovation and service innovation
  • Know where there are breaks in the intended consumer experience, and the down river impact of those breaks
  • Discover where and how technical systems all come together through the lens of consumer experience
  • Uncover opportunities and gaps informing the development of your brand's content strategy
  • Evaluate opportunities to improve the consumer experience based on the expected effort and impact of potential changes.

Selfishly serve your consumer

More than just a guiding principle for action, use empathy as a tool to help guide your consumer strategy. Empathy applied as journey mapping can help you "see" what you cannot otherwise see on your own.

At Modern Climate, we've widely mapped consumer journeys in areas like: healthcare, retail, software, even for an internet, cable TV, home phone & home automation provider. We've learned this deceptively simple tool that can bring profound clarity, inspire customer experience innovation and align organizations––all from taking the time to see the world through the eyes of your consumers.

One more from Dale Carnegie, "When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity."

This applies to my 9-year-old baseball player and to your consumers, too.