They say the best way to learn something is to teach it. I’ve got a few years of teaching experience under my belt and it’s given me a chance to remind myself of a few things.
One of the recurring themes of college marketing courses is the need for marketers to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. It’s a basic idea and it’s what we’ve all spent our careers doing—understanding what makes people tick, why they behave the way they do, how our brands fit into their lives and where the opportunities are to add value to those lives. Even when those consumers don’t look like you.
It takes an uncommon amount of empathy to do it well. Practicing empathy is one of the most interesting parts of marketing strategy—collecting experiences from multiple people and perspectives and challenging oneself and others to see the world through eyes that are very different from our own.
It got me thinking about the role of empathy not only in marketing, but in our world. And how the loss of empathy has coarsened the dialogue and threatens to make us a weaker and less humane nation and world.
Maybe the same skills that make us effective as marketers can make us more effective as human beings. Maybe, if we all re-learned the empathic essence of marketing, we’d re-learn the essence of humanity. We’d be less cruel, more sensitive to the pain of others, more willing to help those who need it most.
Sure, we’d become better marketers, but we’d also be using those skills to achieve something much greater.