Here’s What That Means for Marketing

Marketing has never been more about compassion.

The advertising landscape has changed and the average consumer attention span is fractured among thousands of different sources and options, rather than a few frequented television shows, magazines, or radio stations. The near elimination of the water-cooler moment—when millions watch or listen to the same thing—makes it almost impossible to run one central advertising campaign.

Instead, in 2021, marketing must be targeted. Personalized strategies built on algorithms win in the digital age. Successful marketing requires appealing to consumers’ emotional side—because the importance of consumer social responsibility has grown exponentially in the last few years.

Marketers must focus on the importance of social good, no matter the product or service they are selling. As society turns even more focus to social justice and the environment, the underlying theme in the modern consumer’s mind is compassion. Companies must show that compassion and accountability are part of their underlying mission. Consumers are too invested to simply take these statements at face value; instead, they will track whether or not companies are following through on their commitment. Here are three ways marketers can make compassion the forefront of brand messaging, and how they can implement that strategy at every level of the company.


Financial technology institution Experian wants the credit system to be more representative of society and more diverse and inclusive. Its business model focuses on credit and credit reporting, and it has dedicated itself to addressing financial disparities in the credit system. With compassion as a central goal, the company is tackling a societal problem in an area where it already has expertise.

This is what consumers want to see in 2021: companies leveraging their power and assets for the overall good of society. This can take many forms, but focusing on righting a generations-long wrong is especially timely with the focus of social movements today.

For this strategy to work, companies need two things: a simple message that is easily conveyed and evidence to back up the claim. In this case, the message is taking action to make credit scores more inclusive so that everyone has a better chance at creating wealth. The practical proof behind this message is the company’s strategy. Credit reports are critical to maintaining a fair system that helps expand access to credit for all Americans, including underbanked and marginalized communities.

Tackling a social issue in an area related to the company’s mission is the best way to reach customers in a compassion-driven economy.


Marketers can engineer compassionate messaging by showing how a company makes its service or product available to a wider range of people. Consumers care about supporting brands that give back in a variety of ways. Companies can give their services or products free of charge, or they can give out of their profits.

RealNet, a system made by FIS, used its real-time payment software to help those in need. During the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in India, FIS wanted to donate money to help with pandemic relief efforts. The funds needed to get there fast, and the method of transfer needed to be cost-effective. Working with RealNet, FIS was able to speed up the delivery of these payments from several days to 24 hours while also reducing the cost of these transactions by 90%.

Companies must make moves to give back to the community however they are able. Marketers can then optimize stories like this so consumers understand the company’s goals and mission beyond monetary gain.


The third and final way for companies to reach consumers with compassion-driven messaging is to make it possible for those consumers to offer feedback. With this approach, companies can better understand their relationship with the client and provide direct avenues for communication. This is a social good because it provides consumers, and even those impacted by the product or service, with the ability to offer concerns and complaints.

Instructure, the maker of the online learning management platform Canvas, released a new study last month on the state of K-12 education and the pandemic’s impact on U.S. schools. Among the findings was that 81% of educators believe hybrid learning is here to stay. But equitable access to technology remains a critical issue, and it’s time for a fundamental shift in how learning is measured.

More than 50% of students believe they have fallen significantly behind during two unusual school years. Only 29% of teachers and parents believe high-stakes testing is an important measurement of student learning. Because of these insights, Instructure is working to create more inclusive assessments, and they are partnering with Zoom and other education technology partners to push for measures that help create better access to technology so remote learning works for all students, not just the most privileged.

Compassion is an underlying theme in commerce, and as a result, it is an underlying theme in marketing. Personalized strategies, coupled with people-driven strategies, will prove successful in 2021 and beyond because consumers care about the impact of their purposes. Marketers must understand how to reach consumers in this new way.

Shama is the CEO of Zen Media, a b2b PR and marketing firm for technology-driven b2b brands, a best-selling author, & a keynote speaker.