On advertising, persuasion and the lost skill of cognitive empathy
I am not sure that you were looking for a reply. I am conflicted when I think of one or two things:
I really understand this:
“Know your target audience. Not intellectually, but intuitively. Think like them, empathise with them, identify with them.” Mary Wear.
But for now, you get the idea: the secret to being a writer is to think about the reader. How are they likely to be feeling when they encounter this ad? How would you feel if you were them? What would make you read instead of turning the page? What objections are likely to be forming in their head as they read this sentence? How can you answer them in the next one?
When you think so much does intuition not go out of the window?
And really seeing an interesting perspective in others:
By the collective account of 51 writers, advertising is not only about taking the reader’s perspective—it also involves doing it in a spirit of respect and humility. You’re intruding on the reader’s time, trying to persuade them to change their mind about something,
When you respect anyone, you think about them differently, you instinctively give them more thought.
Thanks for introducing me to the connect of cognitive empathy. I think I will take a lot of time to understand it and then practise it, but it seems so simple… like why did I not see this before.
Hi Nick, thank you so much for a very thoughtful and insightful article. 🙌🏽 This got my copy and 'real person' mind churning, and I sense that a small can of copy worms may have opened. I have always approached a brief with two hats - "Clare the copywriter" and "Clare the everyday person". Keeps me on track. I totally agree with your (and many other writer's) emphasis on cognitive empathy and the directive to "write as if you're talking to a real person". What can be done, however, to improve a writer's empathy radar? Or, what happens when, for example, a very young writer is trying to imagine the life of a pensioner? As an advertising educator, I have heard some rather funny slash alarming perceptions younger students may have of anyone over, even, um ... 30 ... let alone 65 or 80. What is your stance on aligning the writer's profile with that of their target audience, or 'empathy matching'? Personally, I am split. I get that being a mother, for example, should give you immediate extra empathy for other mothers ... however, I also think that the objective perspective of, for example, a non-parent can provide a different and refreshing perspective. Plus, with proper research, the non-parent might actually be more open to a wider set of experiences outside of just their own. (of course they would need to ensure they explore and talk to a lot of mum's and dad's etc. in order to empathise authentically) I ask this question as 'back in the day' the cliché of 'men should work on sports brands' is still around in new guises, with women working on 'female' products and juniors working on cool, fashion brands etc. I sense this directive is coming quite a lot from clients - they want to see their audience reflected in the creatives working on their brand. Perhaps the answer is simply to ensure you have a balanced creative team working on all, and to educate clients about why this is beneficial 🤷♀️ I am curious about your take. Any thoughts?
Love that Nick, thanks. Dx