Most Marketing Sucks: How a Culture of Empathy Can Save It

The biggest threat to business and brands today is ego. Establishing a culture of empathy starts with the way we market.

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.
Disgusted man with finger in mouth displeased wants to throw up. Hipster male with beard in blue plaid checkered shirt  Isolated on gray grey studio Background. Negative face expression, human emotion
Disgusted man with finger in mouth displeased wants to throw up. Hipster male with beard in blue plaid checkered shirt Isolated on gray grey studio Background. Negative face expression, human emotion

Digital technology has changed everything: how we interact with the world, how we learn, how we buy stuff, even how we date. For marketers, it has dramatically interrupted our marketing mix and the expectations from senior executives.

This disruption has forced executives to put increasing pressure on CMOs to implement marketing strategies and programs that deliver a quantifiable return on investment. At the same time, marketing leaders are faced with colleagues across every function who have strong opinions about what marketing tactics we should deploy.

So we’re stuck between a rock and a very hard place. We’re stuck chasing shiny objects, such as new social channels, mobile ads, bots, augmented, and virtual reality. We’re stuck being asked by executives to splash our logos and ads in places our audiences ignore. All the while, we are being asked over and over again: “What’s the return on investment?”

Amid these increasing expectations, we have consumers who are tuning out and turning away from promotional advertising, and colleagues who aren’t sure if we should do what we’re told or what we know will deliver real results.

Which leads me to this point: The biggest threat inside companies today is a culture that doesn’t champion ideas from every employee. Whether they are in sales, marketing, HR, customer support, operations, even legal and finance, every employee has a pulse on the goals of your company, the pains of your customers, and the challenges of their peers. This is why I wrote my latest book, Mean People Suck – How empathy leads to bigger profits and a better life (On sale October 25).

Culture, indeed, is the new mandate for business. Do you have a culture that encourages innovative ideas from these employees? Because no one has greater potential to impact your bottom line than happy and engaged employees.

Culture is shaped by the values that define who we hire, promote, and fire. And most organizations aren’t hiring and promoting their innovators. They are hiring and promoting those of us who protect the traditional hierarchies that no longer serve our business.

What organizations so desperately need today are leaders who encourage innovative ideas from around the organization. These “champion leaders” are looking to deliver organizational impact through employee engagement.

Champion leaders are rising from the ashes of traditional marketing. They no longer take orders to create content no one wants, to execute campaigns everyone ignores, and to slump in their chair when the results don’t materialize. They realize the true power and potential of their colleagues from around the organization. They realize they are the ones who know how to authentically reach new customers, to deliver the expertise customers need to succeed, and to deliver business impact that executives can be proud of.

How To Become A Champion Leader
You can easily identify champion leaders inside every organization based on the following traits:

  • They put the customer at the center of everything they do by asking one simple question: How will this impact our customers?
  • They encourage their peers to share their passion and expertise, not because the company wants them to, but because it benefits the employees themselves. They encourage their colleagues to build their personal brands around the things they know and love, knowing that passion is contagious to both potential customers and sought-after HR talent.
  • They know how to push back on self-serving ideas constructively. They not only ask, “What’s in it for the customer?” But they also challenge what impact decisions will have on their teams and the ability for measuring business impact.
  • They encourage champions across the entire organization. They know that real culture change doesn’t come from an executive mandate, an HR survey, or a revolution. Culture change happens when a critical mass of leaders start marching to the same tune of customer impact, employee engagement to deliver business results.

Digital disruption can be seen all around us. It has destroyed well-known brands and propelled previously unheard-of startups. It has many marketers and brands chasing the latest fad and shiny objects. We’re all looking for the magic bullet to survive in the digital age.

But this is a great time to push back against the bureaucracy. To fight for your customers, to lift up your team, to embrace innovative new ideas. And to drive culture change across every organization.

Culture is the new mandate for marketing and for business. And this kind of change starts with leaders like you.

This article originally appeared on

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...


    “Expectations can be a dangerous thing”, With Nicole Salla and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

    by Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

    Female Disruptors: Cathy Lang and Stacey Hawes of Epsilon are shaking up how data is used in marketing

    by Yitzi Weiner

    Stefan Harvalias of Plenty of Fish: “The pandemic has made many people re-evaluate what’s most important in life — and that includes dating”

    by Alexandra Spirer

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.