In attention we trust – by OMD UAE’s Jessica Machaalani
30 September 2022

This power essay was originally published on Campaign Middle East.

We are in the midst of a trust crisis. Whether it be news, data, tech or big pharma, people are losing faith and becoming increasingly sceptical. The one piece of good news coming from trust surveys is that businesses enjoy the highest levels of trust among all types of organisations, including governments. With this higher level of trust comes a bigger responsibility for creating positive change.

Combating the trust crisis means that businesses, more than ever, need to listen to the needs of their consumers and be one step ahead of expectations. Data shows that we want brands to have purpose with impact-driven missions that benefit people or the planet. WFA research has shown the young are saying they want to be involved in work that has purpose. But it’s not just young people; isn’t that what everybody wants? To do work that actually matters and to be remembered for having made the right decision, done the right thing? Another key aspect is that businesses must act toward the elimination of fraud and fake news. They want brands to take responsibility for technological advances that may compromise privacy. People also value businesses that embrace a diversity of perspectives and collaboration. In the end, what we want is frictionless and more valuable experiences.

Individuals are much more than a number in a database, yet even the language we use shows we are losing our connection to reality. In an industry where consumers are defined as ‘eyeballs’, it has never been easier to buy them, yet it’s never been harder to gain and hold their attention. Attention has never been more important. We need a new partnership based on a better value exchange with trust at the heart. This may seem a tough balance to strike, but there is a way forward.

To meet these expectations, businesses need to tap into their human side and act with empathy. It is only after the world shut down and we witnessed the rollout of the biggest global mental health crisis that we focused on this essential human quality. The ability to be empathetic is what separates us from machines and allows us to understand each other at a deeper level.

Empathy is how brands can develop a new glue of trust. Empathy, however, isn’t a ready-made metric, so at OMD we’ve identified six constituent elements of empathy to consider:

ContextThe editorial and environmental surrounding of communications, such as time and place.

Culture: Including the market drivers, heritage and cultural forces at play.

Communication imperative: Based on a proprietary study that isolates the seven drivers of purchase intent (presence, likeability, experience, quality, opinion, value, trust).

Contact: To communicate effectively and stop before annoying people, the way in which we connect is a key dimension.

Construct: The understanding of the best shape and size for each platform and device.

Content: What makes the message right, providing the best emotional response.

In this context, empathy is a critical stepping stone towards attention, for it is through our understanding of culture, context, content, and communications imperative that we deliver more valuable experiences. This broader analysis of cultural and contextual data is proven to deliver better attention and performance. The importance of each of these elements will differ by industry and brand, but the logic remains. Achieving attention will depend on the optimal combination of the six Cs.

Using our empathy filter helps us understand how to gain attention and discern the right thing to do for each individual consumer. This should be done while preserving the brand’s integrity to earn trust.

Empathy, let us not forget, plays a vital role in the human cognitive process. When businesses build true empathy and tap into human understanding, they can then trigger emotion and people will remember the brand. After all, the basic ‘fight or flight’ instinct within us stems from people experiencing physical or emotional stimuli that lead us to act a certain way and survive. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Being part of a person’s memory is what will eventually drive growth. Being the first brand they turn to, the brand they trust and the brand that makes them feel that they belong is the sweet spot. To warrant a consumer’s attention, you must first have trust, which can only come from empathy. This needs to be the focus for every business that wants to drive positive change and long-term growth in today’s economy.

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