Empathy is becoming a driver of innovation and revenue, and a point of differentiation for products, services, hiring practices, and branded experiences.
About This Trend:
We have identified trends related to empathy before, but this year we noticed something different: Companies and entrepreneurs are discovering that empathizing with their customers’ varying emotional and practical needs can not only improve relationships, but also be surprisingly profitable.
Take Starbucks, for example. While the brand has consistently innovated to offer new, fun ways to consume beverages, now it is setting new standards in communicating its values and vision through shaping its products and services for populations whose needs are often ignored by brands. Two years ago, the coffee chain opened its first-ever sign-language-only store in Malaysia, staffed entirely by employees who were either deaf or hard of hearing. Then, the coffee chain opened another location, this time in downtown Washington, D.C., just a few blocks from Gallaudet University, a 150-year-old institution of learning, teaching, and research for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
We call this trend Enterprise Empathy, a term that encompasses the growing number of brands, startups, and even large corporations that are driving growth through connecting with the human side of consumers’ unmet needs.
Stories & Examples
- This October, Proctor & Gamble announced a new Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner bottles featuring tactile markers, which allow people with vision impairment to distinguish between the two bottles.
- Recently, IKEA launched a special line of kitchen wares designed specifically for people with limited mobility, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and people who have undergone surgery.
- United Nations Uses Facebook’s Augmented Reality To Help Citizens Tell Their Stories Boulevard Adult Day Care in Flushing, NY, customizes their programs—from the food they serve to the décor of their facilities—to their clients’ cultural backgrounds. One of their centers, for example, is catered to people who grew up in India, while another is tailored to Hispanic seniors.
- In 2003, a social worker in New York named Henry Ferkso-Weiss created a certification program for “end-of-life doulas” and started the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA) to better support those nearing the end of their lives.