Empathy, Belonging and Authenticity: The Three Pillars of HX (Human Experience)

At Potentiate, our focus is on HX (Human Experience), which we believe is the next step after CX and UX. Accordingly, we have been spending a lot of time working out what HX means and how to understand it better. Our research suggests that understanding HX rests on three key pillars: Empathy, Belonging and Authenticity.

1. Empathy

A great example of empathy is the work Dove has done looking at what real beauty means. A few years ago, Dove showed their empathy with a campaign that talked to pairs of women. They first asked women to talk about aspects of their body they liked, and the women struggled to identify things they were happy with. They then asked their friends to describe the aspects they liked. All of a sudden, the floodgates opened, and people had no problem listing positives about their friends. 

This campaign was based on prior research, showing that women find it much easier to describe positives about others, rather than themselves. The campaign used empathy to support Dove’s general proposition that beauty comes in many forms, and all forms of beauty are to be valued.

One way to understand empathy is via ‘empathy labs’. For example, finance company Guardian commissioned sessions with an empathy lab. People with different disabilities answered questions, and staff from Guardian experienced sessions, which showed what it was like to lack manual dexterity, or to be visually impaired. 

For most brands, the people running the company need to remember that many (sometimes most) of their customers are not like them – empathy must be learned, which means it needs to be researched.

2. Belonging

Belonging is about being loyal to your people, even when what they are doing is not central to your business. This is because belonging is a reciprocal thing – if you want your customers and users to have a feeling of belonging to you, you need to have one for them. 

One good example of building belonging is the way that footwear brand Vans converted underground tunnels in London into a skatepark and event center. Skateboarding is something people who wear Vans belong to – with this initiative, Vans showed they belonged too.

Another exciting example of a brand showing belonging is the way vodka brand Smirnoff sponsored the Soho Angels. In London, Soho is a key area for the LGBTQI+ community, with a wide range of bars and clubs. Within the community, the people are relatively safe, but the Soho Angels help make sure people get home safely. By sponsoring the Soho Angels, Smirnoff showed it belonged to its people, even after they had finished drinking for the night.

3. Authenticity

Brands can’t just wear the right labels, their empathy and belonging needs to be authentic. When Pepsi used Kendal Jenner in an ad designed to link to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it was immediately highlighted as not being authentic. If you plan to do something, but you can’t be authentic, don’t do it. 

One brand that shows the true value of authenticity is Patagonia. Patagonia invests in renewable energy, donating 1% of sales to environmental groups, campaigning for environmental causes (e.g. preserving America’s National Parks), and building durable products. Of these, building durable products is probably the one that utilizes all three pillars the most – it is central to producing a good product, it will create belonging, and it shows authenticity.

Bringing All Three Together

The key thing about these 3 pillars is that you need to do them all to establish your brand as people-centric. A great recent example comes from one of our clients in Australia, Kimberly Clark, owner of the Huggies brand of nappies/diapers. In this video, Huggies talks to mums about how they see themselves and the challenges they face. They then talk to the families – guess what, just like the Dove case, everyone rates the mums more fairly than they rate themselves. 

#becomfortableinyourskin delivers Empathy, Belonging, and Authenticity. In the short term, it probably won’t sell more Huggies, but it will build a relationship where Huggies can offer relevant solutions to some of the people’s issues, challenges, and desires. 

Don’t just try to understand the path to purchase your product, understand how your product fits into people’s lives.

 Linking Insights to HX and the three pillars

If you want to help brands be more human-centric and utilize these 3 pillars, then you need to start with yourself. Develop your empathy, your sense of belonging and be authentic. Use research tools that blend approaches to allow you to explore the lives of customers beyond their existence as customers. To find out more, here is a link to my post “Why HX, Why Now?”

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