Thursday, June 19, 2008

Empathy .. why is it not the norm

Friends and Enemies, originally uploaded by tomsaint11.

A few years ago a collegue of a friend of mine at Naked Sydney, Adam Ferrier... who is was a clinical psychologist now account planner, made a comment at an event that stuck in my head. He found it ridiculous that there were not more female creatives and planners, as generally they are more empathetic.

I thought this was really interesting at the time. But it fell to the back of my mind until recently when I was reading the guys at Adaptive Path's book 'Subject to Change' and the whole idea of empathy came up in terms of design and the research that is utilised in design. I am seeing it more day to day when you look at the mountains of research and data out there that doesn't give you an idea of a real person. The guys write about small things like when they saw a mother trying to change her baby's nappy. She only had one hand as she had to hold the baby with the other. So the nappy brand designed a simple nappy dispenser to make it easier for mum's to use just the one hand. Brillant idea. Could you see that in data. Dont think so

I have been involved in a number of ethnographic and other really interesting real life qualitative style research techniques lately. Which I love, as it highlights the small things. But you start to really get empathy for the people that you are dealing with. You really become in tune with what they are about. I have been doing a bit of work on mums lately and some of the research has made me wanna call my mum and say are the best... how did you do it. But that brings on something that the guys from Adaptive Aath commented on. The difference between empathy and sympathy. You shouldnt pity them, as it will lead you down very different path, which is what I started to do with the mums work. So if I am starting to have empathy for the people and I want my brand to show empathy... how do you do that ?

Do brand utilities show empathy ? => I think they begin to

Does simplicity in design to show empathy ? => I think it does.. why make it harder for them

The ultimate question though. Does your brand showing empathy toward an audience build an emotional connection that every brief / client / brand seems to want these days ?

I will be back with more from this book, which is brillant. Go buy one

1 comment:

Adam Ferrier said...

A friend of mine once said 'Only guys should do comdy, and only girls should rule nations', I guess she was saying that what guys lack in empathy they make up for in observation and ingenuity. Good luck in the UK.