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With all the talk of new technologies and the like in the air, we may overlook the basics. Yet, one of the themes running through the recent Market Research Event was the notion of simply empathizing with consumers. This is nothing new of course; it is the core of what we do every day -- understand consumers, bring them to life, connect them to marketers. Every day we put ourselves in the consumer's shoes, or in some cases actually watching them put on their shoes.

Sometimes it is hard for clients to truly empathize with their consumers, because quite often they aren't in the same boat. They may be more affluent, live different lifestyles, and have upbrings and life experiences that are poles apart. Despite all of the differences -- perhaps because of them -- it is the researcher's job to do as much as to connect marketers and their consumers, and to do this in a way that makes the experience as engaging as possible.

A technique used successfully by one researcher at the conference was to force marketers to consume as their consumer does.


  • Shop on a strict budget (like many of their customers).

  • Shop with children in tow, even if that means "borrowing" kids for a day.

  • Immerse marketers with triads of like-minded consumers

  • Engage in other non-shopping activities common to the target consumers.

  • And, of course, keep journals to drive their immersion home.



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We know and do Immersion extremely well, but Immersion research only works as well as the client wants it to, so we have to constantly look for way to keep things fresh and fun.

Another way insight managers are using empathy is bringing together cross-functional teams. We all know how different right- and left-brained individuals think and process information. It can be extremely difficult for them all to difficult to work on the same page. By placing cross-functional teams together in the same room with consumers, and holding immersion sessions that help each team member empathize with their consumers, an insights manager got his team to think similarly--like their consumer. He was then able to hold Ideation sessions that led to productive concept development work.

In other words, walking in someone else's shoes has the added benefit of forcing marketers to take of their own.

As we strive to provide marketers with actionable insights and help them connect with their consumers, we must also be consistently looking for new and innovative ways to help them foster empathy for their consumers. Empathy makes insights real.

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