Empathy Marketing

Shadow of Jesus comforts a woman with empathy

Are we communicating our message in the right way?

Jesus Loves You

We have a message to tell through our content: Jesus loves you and you can have a relationship with Him and so can your family and friends! Your community can be transformed by the love and power of Jesus Christ!

And we could very well just straight up tell them this in our marketing posts like, “Jesus LOVES YOU.”

But, in the marketing world, there is another way— perhaps even a more effective way to engage people with our content and communicate the need for a product; or, for our purposes, a Savior.


People aren’t looking to buy a mattress but to buy a good night of sleep

In general, unless people explicitly recognize that they feel the need or want for a product, they won’t pursue it without prompting. We have all experienced this. However, when an ad is placed in front of the buyer’s eyes, something begins to happen. They begin to think about it.

If the ad simply says, “Buy our product!” the buyer has no reason to think further; they only think about the product for a second while scrolling. However, if the ad says, “My life has truly changed for the better. I can’t believe it! If you’ve ever wanted this kind of change, click here to find out more,” something begins to happen.

The buyer can connect to the ad on several points:

  • The buyer most likely also feels the need or want for change
  • The buyer also wants good for themselves
  • The buyer begins to identify with the feelings of the person in the ad thereby identifying with the product itself.

For these reasons, the second ad statement, “My life has truly changed…” illustrates a method of marketing that is called “empathy marketing” and is well known and used widely in the marketing world.”


“My life has truly changed…” illustrates a method of marketing that is called “empathy marketing” and is well known and used widely in the marketing world.


People don’t know they need what you’re offering

For example, people don’t know that they “need” a device that can fry their morning eggs in the microwave. However, they can relate to the frustration of not having enough time for a healthy meal in the morning before work. Maybe the new device could help?

Likewise, people don’t know that they need Jesus. They don’t know that they need a relationship with Him. However, they do know that they need food. They know that they need friendship. They know that they need hope. They know that they need peace.

How do we call attention to these felt needs and show them that, no matter the situation, they can find hope and peace in Jesus?

How do we encourage them to move one small step toward Him?

This, my friends, is where empathy marketing can help us.


What is Empathy Marketing?

Empathy marketing is the process of creating media content using empathy.

It shifts the focus from, “We want 10,000 people to know that we love Jesus and they can love Him, too,” to, “The people we serve have legitimate needs. What are these needs? And how can we help them to consider that these needs are met in Jesus?”

The difference is subtle but effective.

Here is a note from an article from columnfivemedia.com on How To Do Effective Content Marketing: Use Empathy:

Too often content marketers ask, “What kind of content will help me sell more?” when they should ask, “What kind of content will provide high value to readers so it will attract customers?” Focus on solving their problems—not yours.


Focus on solving their problems—not yours.


A friend recently said to me, “When you’re thinking about content, consider the hell that your clients are trying to escape from and the heaven that you want to deliver them to.”

Empathy marketing is about more than just selling a product. It is about truly engaging with the buyer and helping them to interact with your content and, thereby, the product.

If this seems a bit abstract to you, you’re not alone. Read on to get an understanding of what empathy is and some practical tips on how to integrate empathy into your campaign content.  


What is Empathy?

You and I have experienced its effects time and again. It was the feeling behind the deeper, almost relieved smile I received when I looked into a friend’s eyes and said, “Wow, that must be really hard.” It was the feeling of relief and budding hope when I revealed a deep childhood hurt and saw the look of compassion and understanding in a friend’s eyes as she said, “You’ve never told anybody this? That must’ve been really difficult to carry.”

It is what we feel when we read the honest words, “I cry out by day, O my God, but You do not answer, and by night, but I have no rest” (Psalm 22:2). Our souls join in with David’s in times of deep hurt and aloneness. When we read these words, we suddenly do not feel quite so alone.

These feelings of relief, of budding hope and togetherness are the effects of empathy. Empathy itself is when one party both takes on and understands the feelings of another.


Empathy itself is when one party both takes on and understands the feelings of another.


Because of this, empathy beautifully and effectively communicates the much needed Gospel message, you are not alone. It both helps people to subconsciously acknowledge their shame and bring it into the light.

According to Brene Brown, renowned researcher on shame, there is no other feeling, no other phrase that as effectively ushers a person from a place of shame and aloneness to belonging than, you are not alone. Isn’t this exactly what the story of the Gospel enacts in people’s hearts? What does the name Immanuel communicate, if not this?

Empathy puts the feelings, needs and thoughts of others above our own agenda. It sits down with another and says, I hear you. I see you. I feel what you feel.

And isn’t this what Jesus does with us? With those He encountered in the Gospels?  


Practical Tips On Using Empathy Marketing.

You may be saying at this point, well, that’s all good but how in the world could we begin to do that through ads and social media content?

Here are some practical tips on how to use empathy marketing to create effective media content:

1. Develop a Persona

Empathy marketing is very difficult to do without a Persona. In general, it is difficult to empathize with someone or something abstract. If you haven’t developed at least one persona for your target audience, check out the course below.

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2. Understand Your Persona’s Felt Needs

What are the felt needs of your persona? Consider the following areas of need when asking this question of your Persona.

How does your Persona practically display a need for the following?

  • love
  • significance
  • forgiveness
  • belonging
  • acceptance
  • security

Think about the ways that your Persona tries to get love, significance, security, etc. in unhealthy ways. Example: Persona-Bob hangs out with the most influential drug dealers to try to feel accepted and significant.  

If you are struggling with this particular step, consider asking yourself how these felt needs have manifested in your own life. When was a time when you felt perfect love? When was a time when you felt completely forgiven? How did you feel? What are some things that you have done to find significance, etc.?


3. Imagine What Jesus or A Believer Would Say

Consider your thoughts on the following questions:

If Jesus were to sit down with your Persona, what would He say? Perhaps something like this? Whatever you feel I have felt, too. You are not alone. I created you in your mother’s womb. Life and hope are possible. Etc.

If a believer were to sit down with this Persona, what would he/she say? Maybe something like this? Ah, you have no hope? That must be so hard. I didn’t either. I remember going through a very dark time, too. But, you know what? Because of Jesus, I had peace. I had hope. Even though I still go through hard things, I have joy.  

Think about this: how can you create content which “sits” the seeker down with Jesus and/or with a believer?


4. Begin To Form Positively Framed Content

It is important to remember that most social media platforms will not allow any ads which are seen to be negative or talk about hard things; i.e. suicide, depression, cutting, etc. Language which includes the very pointed “you” can even sometimes be flagged.

The following questions are helpful to ask when seeking to frame content to avoid flagging:

  1. What are their felt needs? Example: Persona-Bob needs food and is depressed.
  2. What are the positive opposites of these felt needs? Example: Persona-Bob has enough food and has hope and peace.  
  3. How can we market these positive opposites? Example: (Testimony Hook Video) I now trust in Jesus to provide for me and my family and have hope and peace.   


Example of Positively Framed Content:

Positively Framed Content showing empathy


A Look Into: How Did Jesus Use Empathy?

There was something about Jesus that made people respond. Jesus actively engaged people. Perhaps it was His ability to empathize? It is as if He said with every word, every touch, I see you. I know you. I understand you.


It is as if He said with every word, every touch, I see you. I know you. I understand you.


It led people to their knees. It led them to pick up stones. It led them to eagerly speak of Him. It led them to plot His death. The only response we don’t find is passivity.

Consider the response of the Samaritan woman at the well, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29)

Does her response indicate that she felt seen? That she felt understood?

Consider also the response of the blind man, “He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25)

Does the blind man’s response indicate that his felt needs were met? That Jesus understood Him?

We may never know the answers to these questions. However, one thing is for sure, when Jesus looked at people, when He touched them, He neither thought nor communicated, “I’m going to say or do something that will help me to sell my cause more.”

Instead, He met them in their felt needs. He is the master empathizer. He is the master storyteller. He knew what was in their hearts and spoke to these things.

What does this have to do with empathy marketing? Why end an empathy marketing article with examples of how Jesus communicated with others? Because, my friend, you and I have a lot to learn from our Leader. And He is the master at doing what empathy marketing specialists are asking us to do.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15


6 thoughts on “Empathy Marketing”

  1. I have seen these principles before in Rick Warren’s outline, “Communicating To Change Lives”

    By Rick Warren


    A. TO WHOM WILL I BE PREACHING? (1 Cor. 9:22, 23)

    “Whatever a person is like, I try to find common ground with him so he will let me tell him about Christ and let Christ save him. I do this to get the Gospel to them” (LB)

    • What are their needs? (Problems, stresses, challenges)
    • What are their hurts? (Suffering, pain, failures, inadequacies)
    • What are their interests? (What issues are they thinking about?)


    “He has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released, and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.” (Luke 4:18-19 LB) “Training him in good living” (2 Tim. 3:16 Ph)

    • A Bible study (Jesus always spoke to people’s needs, hurts, or interests)
    • Verse with verse (Sun. am verse with verse; Midweek verse-by-verse)
    • Make it relevant (The Bible is relevant—its our preaching of it that’s not)
    • Start with application
    • Goal: Changed lives


    “(Speak) only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen (Eph. 4:29 LB)

    • Things they VALUE
    • Things UNUSUAL
    • Things that THREATEN (Worse way to present it—present “losses”)


    “Don’t only hear the message, but put it into practice otherwise you are merely deluding yourselves.” (Titus 2:1 Ph)

    • Aim for a specific action (homework on the way home)
    • Tell them why
    • Tell them how (Acts 2:37, “What should we do?”)
    • “How-to” messages rather than “Ought-to” messages

    “Ain’t it awful preaching” = (long on diagnosis, short on remedy)


    Remember that the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate is 60 feet—the same for every pitcher. The difference in pitchers is their delivery!


    “A wise, mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is.” (Proverbs 16:21 GN)

    • “When I’m abrasive, I’m not persuasive.” (Nobody changes by being scolded)
    • When preparing ask: Is the message good news? Is the title good news?
    “Do not use harmful words in talking but only helpful words, the kind that build up…” (Eph. 4:29a GN)
    • Preach against sin in a positive way. Promote the positive alternatives


    “A word of encouragement does wonders!” (Proverbs 12:26 LB)

    Three fundamental needs people have: (Romans 15:4, the encouragement of scripture)
    1. They need their faith reinforced.
    2. They need their hope renewed.
    3. They need their love restored.

    “Don’t tell it like it is, tell it like it can be” (1 Cor. 14:3)


    • Honestly share your own struggles and weaknesses. (1 Cor. 1:8)
    • Honestly share how you are making progress. (1 Thess. 1:5)
    • Honestly share what you are currently learning. (1 Thess. 1:5a)

    “If you don’t feel it, don’t preach it”

    D. WHAT IS THE SIMPLEST WAY TO SAY IT? (1 Cor. 2:1, 4)

    “Your speech should be unaffected and logical so that your opponents may feel ashamed at finding nothing in which to pick holes” (Titus 2:8 Ph)

    • Condense the message to a single sentence.
    • Avoid using religious or difficult terms.
    • Keep the outline simple.
    • Make the applications the points of the sermon.
    • Use a verb in each point.

    A basic Communication Outline: “Frame it!!

    1. Establish a need.
    2. Give personal examples.
    3. Present a plan.
    4. Offer hope.
    5. Call for commitment.
    6. Expect results.


    • Vary delivery (speed, cadence, volume)
    • Never make a point without a picture (“a point for the heard, a picture for their heart”)
    • Use humor (Col. 4:6, “with a flavor of wit” JB)
    o Relaxes people
    o Makes the painful more palatable
    o Creates positive actions/reactions
    • Tell human-interest stories: T.V., magazines, newspapers
    • Love people to the Lord. (1 Cor. 13:1)

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