Empathy 01

In the day-to-day life of big corporations, agencies or consulting companies it’s easy to forget the target consumer’s reality. Although consumers are on the core of everything that is done, thought and designed, oftentimes stakeholders know them through figures and reports, but rarely see them in flesh. It is a challenging task to make consumer insights known outside the CMI (Consumer & Market Insights) department and engage more of the company’s staff in the process of understanding the target consumer.

Today there is an increasing tendency to value big data and artificial intelligence – which we, at CBA B+G, totally support. However, we can’t forget the great value of building emotional and human ties throughout the research and innovation process, by using tools that promote an empathetic immersion in the lives of consumers.

 

Empathy boosts transformation

But what exactly does empathy mean? According to the Australian philosopher Roman Krznaric, it’s about finding shared humanity. He believes that we are urgently in need of empathy to create the ‘social glue’ to hold our society together. From a business point of view, empathizing with consumers is not only ‘cool’; we believe it also leads to transforming, effective and positive results, in three different ways:

  • Empathy benefits companies, promoting internal engagement: stepping into other people’s shoes makes us appreciate them more, they grow in importance before our eyes. Therefore, it is fundamental to have the different teams of a company look at the final consumer with more empathy. This approach will promote a higher level of engagement with the product or service that is being developed.
  • Empathy drives purpose: more than ever, we are aware that brands must build a positive impact territory. An empathic attitude is a great way to get there, as it implies in considering consumer’s needs and wishes beyond the offer, trying to understand how to foster well-being in a broader sense.
  • Empathy leads to more assertive innovation: In the light of empathy, consumers are viewed as people, and not just consumers. All of a sudden, ‘target AB 18-25’ gets a name, a history, a life. Thus, we can experience their needs, priorities, creating purpose-driven products and services.
 

How can we be more empathetic towards consumers?

Storytelling is at the heart of any empathic process, and there are countless tools, non-digital, hybrid or completely virtual which engage the spectator in the story in a simple, touching and impactful way. Here are some tools and examples that can be applied to society and by brands.

A. Step into someone else’s shoes … literally
If empathy means to step into other people’s shoes, then why not literally do that? That is the proposal of the initiative called “A mile in my shoes” from the Australian National Maritime Museum, which invites visitors to wear shoes that belong to other (real!) people and listen to them telling parts of their stories. In São Paulo, the exhibition “Diálogo com o Tempo” (Dialogue with Time), hosted by Unibes Cultural, has created an immersion environment in the universe of old age, inspired by the same principle.

At CBA B+G, we have applied the same idea during an Innovation workshop held for Plenitude – a brand of disposable underwear, designed for people who suffer from incontinency. We have asked the participants to wear the underwear for three days, to put themselves in the consumers’ shoes and better understand their needs.

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“Using the product myself was revealing. We have always focused on absorption, however I noticed opportunities to go beyond. These insights led to new innovative attributes for the product, which are currently being developed by our Engineering team. Today we are close to offering one more benefit to better meet our consumers’ needs”

Mônica Fernandes, CSI Adult Care Leader, Kimberly-Clark

 

B. Capture moments of life through films, audios and photographs
Films and photographs are powerful empathy devices. This thought led the Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei to create the film “Human Flow” to raise global awareness about the refugees crisis. Brands also make use of empathetic films to create impactful campaigns. “Thank you, Mom”, the most successful campaign in the history of P&G is really touching because it effectively puts spectators in the place of mothers, creating a strong sense of identification.

At CBA B+G, we have been running ethnographic surveys and online diaries about consumers’ journey, asking them to film moments of their lives using their mobile cameras. For one of the partners we work with, from a hitchhiking app, we used the methodology ‘fear accounts’, through which we kept in touch with the app users via WhatsApp during a week, asking them to send us an audio each time they got scared when using the service, telling us what happened and how they felt. This method allowed us to capture real and touching stories, spontaneously.

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C. Immerse in someone else’s world with Virtual Reality (VR)
The VR technology uses a headset to place the spectator in a virtual environment with a 360 view, providing a more intimate and active immersion. For some people, technology is undoubtedly the best way to step into other people’s shoes. Technology has been used in games, science and arts, to recreate the way autistic people perceive the world, and as an invitation to reflect upon the effects of global warming.

At CBA B+G, we have devised for Nestlé a VR Project – Consumer Connections – to immerse in the lives of the target-consumers of three major brands of the company. One of the project’s expectations was to give everyone in the company – regardless of work department or position – the possibility to get to know the daily lives of people from different realities. The tool made it possible, for example, to follow a typical day in the life of Luiza, a teenager who lives in São Paulo and loves KitKat and skating. To Cibele Rodrigues, Research Manager, at CBA B+G, “the project was enriching and powerfully delightful. It refreshed the target, putting everyone on the same page. Moreover, we escaped the traditional reports, showing more humane journeys. At the end of the day, the figures made more sense, allowing executives to take more assertive decisions, closer to the consumer”.

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“The immersion project using VR was one of the most incredible we have ever experienced, which made us think ‘why haven’t we done that before?’ The possibility to follow parts of consumers’ life is the icing on the cake for any insight or marketing professional. The approach was fundamental to make us understand the best moments and ways to connect with them”.

Demer Santos, Consumer & Marketplace Insight Manager, Nestlé

 

D. Blend consumers with clients, breaking barriers
Who says we cannot mix consumers and clients, spectators and artists, experts and laypeople? Breaking these barriers is also a powerful way to connect people and develop empathy.

We introduce this concept during our processes, joining clients and consumers to work face-to-face, without one-way mirrors and with no condescension. Today, we do the same remotely. Alex Espinosa, CBA B+G’s managing partner and Head of Innovation, explains that the objective is to “create ecosystems where clients, consumers, mentors and experts co-create together with a common purpose, enabling a multi perspective view of the challenge and incorporating experiences that boost the developed solution”.

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E. Join virtual with real, using Augmented Reality (AR)
AR has also been gaining space in our lives. This technology make it possible to mix elements from the virtual and real worlds with the advantage of being much more accessible, since it doesn’t require a headset and can be easily developed in an app. It has been largely used, both by entertainment games (who remembers the Pokémon Go fever?) as by brands that provide a product trial without the need to leave home. That’s the case of Ikea, that simulates how your sofa would look in your sitting room; or L’Oréal, that offers the possibility to virtually try on different lipstick colors before choosing one.

But how is augmented reality used in research and Innovation? We have recently developed, together with one of our business partners, an app that used AR in a disruptive way, to make a survey about absorbent pads products. Consumers were able to try different shapes and sizes of new products, simulating real use by projecting them in their panties or bikinis. To Alex Espinosa, “technology allows prototypes and products to reach millions of homes without the need of physically producing any of them, in real-time tests that result in products that better fit the target-consumer. It is the fastest and most effective way to validate your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with consumers and find the added value and possible improvements within minutes”.

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What does the future hold?

We may safely assume that extended reality will continue to evolve and improve to achieve astounding results. We bet on the use of Augmented Reality and other hybrid formats that explore the best of technology to project reality as perceived by others without disregarding human contact. Definitely, digital and analog realities are complementary in capturing insights more sensitively.

To delve into this issue of empathy and its tools more deeply, we recommend watching the TED talk by the Australian philosopher Roman Krznaric about how to start an empathy revolution, as well as the New Yorker’s beautiful immersive animated short-documentary film about detention camps in China. If you don’t have a VR headset or cardboard yet, it’s worth buying one and start playing with these new possibilities.

And of course, don’t hesitate to contact us to understand better how we can help your brand use these tools on your behalf. And if this topic inspires you and if you are or know someone who is a business professional, strategist or designer interested in joining our team, write to newtalents@cba-bmaisg.com telling us about your expectations, objectives and history. We are always looking for talent!

This article had the contribution of: Carmen Beer, Ana Cerqueira, Giuliana Sanchez, Thaísa Miyahara, Ana Paula Moreno, Alex Espinosa, Cibele Rodrigues, Demer Santos, Mônica Fernandes, Josy Lamenza, Daniela Irrazabal, Rosario Maglione, Renato Storni and Luis Bartolomei.

He’s Coming to Take You Away, Ha-Haaa!

There’s nothing like a semi-colon or comma in the wrong place to make some people’s blood boil. Never more true than in the case of a man in the English city of Bristol who became known as the Apostrophiser.

He’s the self-styled grammar vigilante who spent almost a decade tidying up the punctuation on store fronts and street signs.

His identity’s never been revealed, but he was known to creep around in the dead of night on the lookout for offending apostrophes. Armed with a long-handled homemade device and stepladder, he reached the highest signs to add in, or erase, any offending punctuation marks.

One of the signs which really rankled him was above a nail shop which bore the name, “Amys Nail’s.” In a secret interview, the Apostrophiser explained, “It was so loud and in your face. I just couldn’t abide it. It grates.”

He also managed to sort out “Cambridge Motor’s,” even receiving a ‘thank you’ from the owners for his efforts.

You might well be right in thinking that the actions of our Hyphen Hero were illegal. Perish the thought. His defense was unapologetic, “I’m sticking on a bit of sticky-back plastic. It’s more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong.”

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It's About the Genes

The antics in Bristol are extreme, but there may be more going on than we think in the brains of those who go round correcting other people’s grammar. Researchers are calling it Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome, or GPS.

We know there’s a FOXP2 gene which could be behind lots of grammatical issues people grapple with. These include difficulties making complex sentences or constantly deploying the passive voice.

Well, wait for it. There’s now evidence that a gene variant, the FOXP2.1, could cause us to become obsessed with correcting other people’s grammar. (Or, should that be correcting the grammar of other people?) And, btw, I’m right to put the question mark before the bracket in this instance, although I did have to check.

It’s not a far cry from the types of episodes caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Those most affected can take some comfort from the researchers involved. They concluded the compulsion to fixate on grammatical complexities is “more socially acceptable than repetitive hand washing, the incessant touching of doorknobs or refusing to step on sidewalk cracks.”

Phew!

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Hyphen and Comma Wars

So let’s dig a little deeper into our punctuation pals. Officially there are fourteen of these little suckers in English, from commas to colons. Some have caused huge controversy with the humble hyphen almost sparking a war in Europe.

Czech and Slovak politicians had long been embroiled in what became known as the Hyphen War. In the final years of Czechoslovakia back in the early ‘90s, things came to a head.

To cut a long story short, the Slovaks wanted the same star billing in the country’s name. Nothing less than Czecho-Slovakia was going to do. In the end, the issue was resolved when the two equals peacefully went their separate ways and two republics were created.

There are few punctuation issues that ruffle more feathers than that surrounding the Oxford comma. To be or not to be, that really is the question.

It’s been a controversial, divisive, and painful saga. Or, should that be, “It’s been a controversial, divisive and painful saga?” You tell me, or, on second thoughts, please don’t.

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New Kids on the Block

There may be only fourteen official punctuation marks, but punctuation imposters are creeping in. Be alarmed, be very alarmed because one of them, the interrobang, looks to be here to stay.

For the purists out there, this exclamation/question mark hybrid is nothing short of sacrilege. Its very presence has cheapened punctuation stock value.

For others, the interrobang is a refreshing, clever combo. If you’re even at all dramatic, you’re likely to crave using it at least once a day. One student at Newcastle University in the UK agrees.

Along with others, she was recently asked to give her thoughts about her punctuation favorite. Here’s a sample of what she and a few of her peers had to say:

Isn’t the Interrobang the Ultimate Punctuation Mark‽
It’s bold. Observe as the supple curve of a ‘?’ juxtaposes the jutting confidence of a ‘!’. An elegant combination of two splendid punctuation marks, the interrobang helps you through written situations where you want to express excitement!! but also maybe hesitation??
Maud Webster

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Favorite Traditional Punctuation Marks

The Best Punctuation Mark Has to Be the Semi-colon.
I dare not think of any better way to separate my flamboyant shopping list. Not only does the semi-colon hold such a necessary purpose when writing, it is a beauty to hand-write itself. It’s like two-in-one; a full stop and a comma. The satisfaction I get after using a semi-colon is next to none!
Meg Howe

Ellipsis: the Sexiest of the Punctuation Marks
Flirtatious and alluring, the ellipsis leaves you wanting… These three dots say so much by saying nothing at all. A very […] omission. A charged silence. A pensive… pause. Leave it to the imagination, says the ellipsis. There’s nothing pretentious here, no finality or !!! drama — brevity or ??? interrogation. Just a little moment to sit and wonder what could have been. Or what will be…
Ella Williams

The humble comma is an unlikely candidate for the greatest punctuation mark, or so you may think.
Which other, however, can render the subtle rhythms of speech with such elegance, such grace? That little flick can make the clumsiest list flow smoothly, or break up overlong sentences with a mysterious pause, like so. Always charged with the promise of another clause, the comma brings hope where other, inferior punctuation marks (., !, ?, etc.) bring misery.
Peter Bath

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What these students have done is bring to life a bunch of innocent dots and dashes. They’ve used humor to remind us that being pedantic can sometimes mean we overlook the artistic impact punctuation can have.

Go forth, I say, free yourselves up by scattering these marks far and wide. And, take a tip from the Spanish. ¡If a punctuation mark’s worth using once, it‘s worth using twice!

 

This article was written by Rutger Thiellier, Executive Creative Director, New York

I’m excited to announce that our Senior Designer, Katie Dorrian, is going to put together next month’s article. She’ll be revealing the secrets behind the magical shape of the triangle.

Simply Red

Picture it. An excited crowd awaits the diva. She puts down a glass of Champagne on her dressing room table and takes one last look at herself.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest attention seeker of them all?” She pouts her shiny red lips, smiles and then whispers, “Why you are, of course.” Her fans roar in eager anticipation.

A quick google search and you’ll see that Taylor Swift’s apparently taken top prize in the international show-off category. It should come as no surprise then that her favorite color is red. It’s a smart choice.

Why? Sit back, and find out how this hot, fiery temptress of a color has become a number one attention grabber.

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It All Starts At Birth

When we’re babies, red is the first color that any of us ever see. We’ll go on to recognize the full color spectrum aged 5 months.

It may not have always been this way. Scientists believe there was a time in early human history when we could only distinguish red in a world of black and white. This could have helped our ancestors do things like spot ripe, red fruit or potential dangers.

It might also partly explain why the color red has so many cultural associations and why it provokes the strongest of our emotions.

Nature, Nurture or Both?

Chromology, or the psychology of color, is used when designing anything, from hotel bedrooms to cookie packages. So, can colors really affect a person’s mood?

‘Absolutely they can,’ psychologists have long argued. Understanding why this is the case is more complex.

Although color perception may be influenced by cultural conditioning, there are some broadly agreed connections between colors and emotions whatever their cause.

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The Artistry of Red

Early cave dwellers adorned their walls with scenes painted using red ochre. It was far cry from the luxurious, saturated shades of red such as Vermillion, Crimson and brilliant Cadmium used by renaissance painters.

Some of their most expensive red paints, made from the crushed scales of insects like the kermes beetle, were used to attract the attention of art admirers.

Over time, a myriad of reds have become symbols of power and influence for royals and church leaders alike. There’s even a correlation between more dominant male mandrill monkeys and the brightness of red colors which cover parts of their body.

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The Symbolism of Red

“Bright reds, scarlet, pillar-box red, crimson or cherry, are very cheerful and youthful. There is certainly a red for everyone.” Christian Dior was right about that.

Wearing red is a head turner- think of Scarlett O’Hara’s red party gown in ‘Gone with the Wind or the glamorous red dress Julia Roberts wore in ‘Pretty Woman.’ Would Dorothy’s iconic slippers in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ be so memorable if they hadn’t been red?

Psychologists have found that women are perceived as more attractive and sexually desirable when wearing red, sentiments echoed by Chris de Burgh in his ‘The Lady in Red.’

Somehow red causes a voyeur to prefer one potential candidate over another in the love stakes.

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Behaviors Induced by the Color Red

Red increases our heart rate and can also raise our blood pressure. Drivers who get blocked in traffic by a red vehicle react more quickly and aggressively than those obstructed by cars of other colors, for example.

Red also heightens our metabolism and can make us feel more hungry. You’ll find that most global fast-food giants use red to market their products. But, there’s another reason why they do this which lies at the heart of why red is such an attention grabber.

Here’s the scientific lowdown. Objects don’t have color, they emit light which appears as color in our brains. That color is determined by the frequency of the light, red’s being lower than the others. This affects our perception of red and makes it stand out more.

It’s not hard to see then why red would be a good choice for a department store’s ‘Sale’ signs, a fire extinguisher, a London bus or indeed anything we want noticed.

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Physiological Effects

Red might also give us a competitive edge. Scientists at Durham University found that men who wear red clothes send out a signal that they are angry and aggressive, in much the same way as if their face had reddened.

“We know that the colour red has an effect on the human brain,” one of the researchers explained. “This is embedded in our culture, for example the idea of wearing a red tie, known as a ‘power tie,’ for business, or issuing a red alert.

“The implications are that people may wish to think carefully about wearing red in social situations and important meetings, such as job interviews. Being perceived as aggressive or dominant may be an advantage in some circumstances but a disadvantage in others, for example where teamwork or trustworthiness is important.”

If you’re a risk taker, you’re likely to prefer using red poker chips, perhaps because the color’s become synonomous with dominance and winning.

Final Thoughts

The color red is an archetypal color; it is the first color humans mastered, fabricated, reproduced and broke down into different shades. The color red itself is a social phenomenon more than a physical material or a component of light alone.

Rich in its chromatic shades and cultural context, red will forever impact us as humans and alter the way we see things in the world around us – continually evolving our socio-cultural perceptions and the meaning of our lives.

Whether red’s properties have become embedded in our psyche because of our genes or experiences, they’re associated with survival, power and influence; all things that run as deep as the red in our veins.

We hope you enjoyed this insight into our love affair with the color red. Stand by for next month’s edition of CBA’s design series when we’ll be bringing some glamour to the ins and outs of punctuations.

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