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The Need for Empathy in Media Planning

Creating Positive Emotional Associations Through CX Conscious Media Executions

Empowered by access to more information, technology and social networks, consumers have come to expect more from brands. Over the past decade, this has led to a notable shift in the attention brands are paying to customer experience (CX) management and the investment they are willing to make in it.

Positive customer experience is not only important to increase the likelihood of repeat customers, it also minimises the number of vocal detractors in-market while strengthening a brand through the recruitment of brand loyalists and advocates.

The stronger your brand perception is in market, the less often you should need to advertise to maintain the same demand for your product or service. Fairly straight forward, in theory.


Making an Impactful First Impression

More often than not, the customer experience journey begins long before any online purchase or store visitation has occurred, through exposure to brand marketing in some form or another. The impact this first engagement has on an audience has been substantially attributed to the emotion evoked through the alignment of message, medium and moment.

Research shows emotion has a substantial influence on the cognitive processes of humans including perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning and problem solving. The attentional components of emotion have also been linked to heightened learning and memory, meaning emotional experiences and stimuli are better remembered vividly, accurately and with greater resilience over time.


Emotion and Decision Making

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman discusses his research into how our brain makes the majority of our decisions automatically based on emotional associations we create over time to avoid mental overload. This means that while we would like to believe we’re logical and considered in our decision making, the truth is we’re much more impulsive than we realise.

Jenni Romaniuk and Byron Sharp of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science researched brand salience, and the findings are surprisingly simple. Brand salience is a function of the quantity and quality of people’s memories of that brand in context. In lieu of quality, quantity may increase brand saliency, but it’s not necessarily going to lead to brand preference or consideration.

A few years ago, it was inferred that the ‘mathmen’ had superseded the ‘madmen’ as the future of advertising. In reality, a mathematician without empathy won’t provide any greater value than a piece of basic AI in the execution of impactful media.


The Need for Empathy

It’s estimated that we’re exposed to 6,000-10,000 ads per day, a number that’s doubled in the past 10 years. People also believe ads are more intrusive than ever before and the data shows obnoxious ad placements give people a poor opinion of the brands behind the ads themselves. (SOURCE) People would prefer to filter ads than block them completely. People use ad blockers because ads are annoying, intrusive and disrupt what they’re doing. Consumers are actually fine with seeing ads if they’re not annoying. (SOURCE)

For the most part, media campaigns aren’t measured against an annoyance factor but against relatively standardised metrics. Frequency is often reviewed as an average, yet the reality is much more of a bell-curve – meaning for every ‘optimally’ reached individual, there are people experiencing the brand differently. When it comes to delivering positive ongoing interactions through paid media, the relationship between message, moment and medium needs to be dynamic in consideration to the subject matter and the customer experience. How many times can I serve the same content within a specified period of time, across certain formats, before my ad stops being entertaining and becomes annoying? Let’s be honest, do we actually think people enjoy seeing the same ad back-to-back, five times, within a single catch-up TV session?

To a consumer there’s no difference between a ‘performance campaign’ or a ‘brand campaign’ beyond what they experience. A brand ad may actually do harm to a brand through a user’s over-exposure to the same message, while a ‘performance’ campaign component could be the point of brand awareness through which further research is conducted, leading to purchase.

As an industry, we do ourselves a disservice by looking at the average frequency or point of diminishing return, or by misrepresenting channels as being capable of only a single role within a customer journey. At the end of the day, a consumer’s perception is reality, and their reality is defined by the sum of their interactions. Effective media planning isn’t done in silos, it’s done through a lens of customer experience to add value to each consumer interaction.


Written by Calvin Cain, Director, ENGINE Agency