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Employing "rigorous empathy" in market research, Oprah-style

It was Oprah’s empathy that allowed her to get to the heart of so many key issues faced by the royal family. To truly get to the heart of consumers, empathy must be part of the equation.

Back to Resources / Employing "rigorous empathy" in market research, Oprah-style

Everyone is talking about Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It seems that there is no one in the world other than the “Queen of All Media”, known around the world for her unparalleled interview skills, who could have presided over the tête-à-tête. The New Yorker wrote: “This instantly iconic artifact of pop culture could not have been without Oprah, a truly singular examiner.” The magazine headlined its story about the interview with: “The Rigorous Empathy of ‘Oprah with Meghan and Harry’.”

It was Oprah’s empathy that allowed her to get to the heart of so many key issues faced by the royal family, the tidbits of which the world is watching unfold with bated breath. This “rigorous empathy” description made us think about our market research goals: interviewing audiences to understand what they really think, feel, and are doing - and then taking empathetic action to connect with them on a deeper level. To truly get to the heart of consumers, empathy must be part of the equation. 

We drew attention to the importance of empathy when the pandemic was in full force, as many individuals around the world were reeling from its implications. “An empathic approach to our consumers is the only one to take during times like these. People’s habits are shifting as lifestyles are disrupted drastically through regulatory and personal attempts to curb the outbreak. We can look at these changes, but always with a thick layer of emotional sensibility, understanding and even sympathy. A deep understanding of human feelings can help us navigate, and now that is even more important, both for our own humanity and for brands themselves. A misstep right now, with emotions at an all-time high, can break trust and goodwill quickly and irrevocably.”

Again, when we wrote about market research “soft skills” critical to success, empathy was part of the equation. “Not only is this right thing to do, but empathy for our respondents in market research can also have a positive impact on data quality. We want to understand what people are doing and thinking, but also why they are behaving in a certain way and how they are feeling. Uncovering this depth of insight requires empathy. Putting insights into action, with empathy in mind, can help to build relationships, promote positive behaviors (like purchases) and boost loyalty. Tap into and nurture your empathetic side; it will serve you well in the consumer insights work you are doing.”

So next time you’re launching an insights project, do it Oprah-style. Your rigorous empathy will allow you to get responses from interviewees that others may not be able to uncover. For the robust insights we need in market research, this is a good premise to remember. 

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