Skip to content

Create connection: How to build experiences with empathy

In a world of rapid digital change, brands are in danger of forgetting a vital fact: we feel faster than we think. An authentic emotional response is still the key to the hearts of consumers.

The world is changing faster than ever. Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse promises to detach us from the real world. AI is blurring the creations of human and machines. Apple’s Vision Pro wants to play your memories back to you in a quality three times better than 4k. The digital world and the real world are no longer opposing poles – we’re beginning to question whether ‘the digital’ is even a separate space anymore. For brands, that means seamless experiences have never been more important.

The digital disconnect

If digital experiences don’t fit into the natural rhythm of our lives, consumers feel like they’re not being heard. They feel a ‘digital disconnect’, an experience that leaves them feeling alienated and frustrated. You might remember the stir Apple caused in 2014, when they automatically downloaded U2’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, to iTunes app, without the permission of users. Or when Amazon remotely deleted digital editions of George Orwell’s Animal Farm in 2009.

Digital disconnects make users feel brands and platforms aren’t about them. At best, this undermines their sense of ownership, making them dissatisfied, and at worst, it leaves them wary of being controlled.

The empathy equation

To help our clients avoid digital disconnects and successfully connect with their customers, we created the empathy equation. This model provides simple steps to improve brand experience. It asks you to consider the needs of your audiences – from where they are on the customer journey, to how they’re feeling and what they want from the interaction.

We’re using Spotify as our case study, to show the empathy equation in action.

We’ll consider the moments of connection that made the platform the biggest streaming service in the world – with 615 million users worldwide.

Who - Power with personas

Humans make decisions that can’t be defined by broad demographics. We have varying goals, needs, habits and attitudes. That’s why it’s important to get a sharp picture of your audiences, beyond age and location. Developing personas can move beyond demographics for a deeper level of understanding.

Spotify have developed five personas to help them understand their users, based on data from their listening habits. This allowed Spotify to discuss their users with more accuracy and refine the service for specific users, while making sure they don’t alienate others.

The five Spotify Personas: Nick, Olivia, Shelley, Travis, and Cameron. Credit: Spotify

Where – Map a journey

A journey map is a way to plot where someone is on the customer journey. It allows brands to visualise the end-to-end experience of their customers.

For example, Spotify could map the way a user listens to music to identify pain points. Such as being annoyed that music suggestions don’t match their taste or struggling to find the sharing function. Brands can then tackle problem areas to improve the customer experience.

What - Add emotion

Emotional journey mapping makes up the ‘What’ in the empathy equation. It involves taking the data from a journey map and tracing the emotions of users at various touch points.

The emotion can be represented by a curve, which floats from moments of frustration to delight. Or, by adding emojis and pictograms to the specific steps of the journey. By understanding these emotions, brands can design more empathetic and user-centric experiences that create positive emotional connections and increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Tracing a user’s emotional journey

Multiply by empathy

Paying close attention to the empathy equation helps brands go beyond communication to create connection. Once the data has been gathered for each part of the equation, brands can take the final step: multiply by empathy.

Spotify’s “Daylist” is an example of every element of the equation coming together. It uses the data collected from listening habits to build a picture of how taste varies throughout the day and delivers a playlist to match. From “rage angelic Thursday afternoon” to “beach goth hipster Friday evening”, it turns a cold algorithm into a trusted listening partner.

Not a Playlist, but a Daylist. Credit: Spotify

In a time when the rate of change can leave consumers apprehensive, the empathy equation will help a brand stay connected and maintain trust. For diverse markets and audiences, brands can create a world that is bright, vivid and connected.

Want to build trust today? Turn up the empathy.


By clicking "Allow Cookies", you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. By using this site you are agreeing to ourCookie Policy.