“I’ve since come to realize that empathy is related to understanding someone’s emotional state or feelings, whereas perspective taking is much more cognitive and analytical—it’s understanding someone’s interests. I think interests is the key word here. The facts say that both perspective taking and empathy can enhance your understanding of someone else, but if you have to go with one, go with the analytical. I think the evidence says very clearly that people are able, especially in negotiation and sales situations, to reach a better deal for both sides when they’re focused on interests.” – Daniel Pink interview from How to Design a Winning Company (Booz & Co)

This quote from Daniel Pink points to one thing in the marketing world. The one tenet that should be universal for all marketing agencies, technology firms and consultant is responsible marketing.

As marketers… our ability to deliver a brand experience that is truly rewarding to the customer is becoming harder on a daily basis. If you can’t build strategy dealing with three things:

• Empathy
• Perspective Taking
• Interests

You are selling vaporware.

Marketing has always been about finding, utilizing (and sometimes exploiting) empathy. You can watch any episode of MadMen to understand the beautiful and creative relationship between advertising and consumer empathy. In order to be creative Don Draper has to understand the emotional drivers of the customer (or at least give a good guess).

However, the world has changed. Data and analytics are becoming a central part to any marketing process. Empathy is only one part of the equation… and it is becoming smaller as technology advances.

Do we have to understand the emotional state of a consumer? Of course.

Do we have to understand past sales data and behavior to truly relate? Absolutely.

Daniel is right when he suggests that truly understanding someone’s interests is the true essence of effective selling (and marketing). We must move from using empathy as the main crux of marketing and build strategy based on interest driven data.

And if you are not using data as the primary source of strategy development… you are selling vaporware. Stop.