Trusparency 2.0: Empathy

Why is it we can put ourselves in the shoes of certain movie characters and suffer, celebrate, smile and even cry right along with them? How can we express the powerful sense of approval we feel when someone understands us without judging us? Why do discussions about politics quickly degenerate into vicious arguments? It’s all a question of Empathy, which is our capacity to put ourselves in the shoes of others and feel things the way others do.

Studying this emotion and its relationship with brands is the purpose of the second edition of Trusparency 2.0: Empathy, a proprietary study by FCB Brasil conducted in 2012 about the importance of transparency in the discourse of brands. In partnership with co-creative strategic thinking consultants CO.R Inovação, the agency spent months mapping Empathy around Brazil to understand how the ability to see the world through the eyes of another creates opportunities for more intimate communications and even for the creation of more attractive products and services.

“Brands and companies are also influenced by this power of empathy. More than ever, they need to adapt and break the boundaries of political, ideological and economic interests whose roots go back generations. It’s a difficult step, but one that is increasingly required by society,”

Pedro Cruz, COO and CCO of FCB Brasil.


The study, Empathy: the fundamental ability of the coming era, was conducted in two stages:

Qualitative, with 80 street interviews in the capital city of São Paulo, including exploratory questions about the subject and how it is understood, perceived and comprehended. This phase also included four in-depth interviews with specialists on the subject, like anthropologist Hilaine Yaccoub, social scientist Tulio Custódio, Claudia Niemeyer, who designed the Personal Heroes app, and Eric Eustáquio, from Coletivo Utopia. Quantitative, with 1,292 online interviews conducted throughout Brazil by Instituto Quantas, which specializes in market studies and research. The target was composed of men and women from the Brazilian population, aged 18 or older, who were members of classes A,B and C.
Data analysis and conclusions of the study were carried out by 10 professionals from FCB Brasil and CO.R Inovação, who specialize in strategic planning. They analyzed secondary data (desk research, books, movies and publicity case studies) as well as the recorded interviews.

The topic of Empathy first emerged as one of the dimensions of trust, which was identified during the first edition of Trusparency: a path to build a natural brand. It was highlighted as one of the five positive dimensions of the trust-building process, and neuroscience literature supports this. Empathy is defined as our ability to imagine ourselves in another’s place. This is a pivotal trait for brands with a conscience that aim to play a sustainable role in our modern world.

“We are in a rapid process of increasing the longevity of populations and, for brands, this means that they will maintain a relationship with people for much longer,” comments Rita Almeida, founding partner of CO.R Inovação. Rita states that companies will need to adopt two postures that are not very common today: empathy and long-term thinking. “Right now we see that most companies are providing short-term solutions and benefits, based on strategies designed to attain their own goals,” says Rita. She goes on to say that a perspective centered around people is the most empathic and the most favorable for the companies to adopt.

The study produced a tool to measure different levels of empathy experienced between people of different races, genders, ages, years of education, religions and geographical locations. We can therefore establish a Brand Empathy ranking – the Empathometer – which we can use to assess the degree to which people feel empathy for brands, in various categories.

Among other findings, the study discovered that the Brazilian Empathy Index is quite high, measuring 70 points on a scale from 0 to 100. Meanwhile, the Empathy Index for Brands, in the three categories analyzed – beers, cars and banks – is very low, at just 7 points.

The study concluded that the segment of the population with the lowest Empathy Index are men in class C2 who live in the country’s North, Northeast and Mid-West regions, who have fewer romantic bonds and do not have children, pets or a religion.

These results show that the level of personal satisfaction with one’s own life is correlated with the individual’s empathy level. One hypothesis is that the more difficult living conditions make this segment less likely to empathize with others and, as a result, they are less empathic overall.

On the other hand, women in the upper AB class from the country’s Southeast and South, who have more romantic bonds, children, pets and a religion, are among the most empathetic. Once again, satisfaction, especially with one’s personal life, has a direct relationship with our ability to empathize with others.

However, 91% of these women think that brand communications are much more empathetic toward men.

“If empathy is the ability to be open to that which is different, to put oneself in another’s shoes, it is only natural for women to feel that brands don’t perceive them properly,” posits Rita Almeida, from CO.R. “In the past, communications have really come from a male perspective. Brands need to intentionally put themselves in women’s shoes, understanding how they think, their daily challenges and expressions to truly establish a language that can connect with them,” she comments.

In a more personal world, discovering ways to bring brands closer to human emotions is still a major challenge. Pedro Cruz adds, “Few agencies pursue this relationship between brands and people, but at FCB Brasil, we really believe in it. It is more than about time for brands to start developing relationships with people, not just consumers.”