It’s awards season – that time of year we watch millionaires, dressed in designer clothes, fly around the world in search of praise while at the same time (earnestly and without any hint of irony) sharing their views on topics such as economic, racial and sexual inequality or the climate crisis. Joaquin Phoenix was being praised the other day for wearing the same dinner jacket to each of the ceremonies – what a trooper – that’s really taking one for the cause.

What makes a good film?

Anyway, I digress. All this glitz and glamour got us thinking – what makes a good film? There are certainly enough categories of film awards – one of the reasons they tend to last 3+ hours and generally bore any sane person to tears. Is it the actors, the director, the script, the cinematography, the special effects….. the size of the bribe a studio pays to the judging panel?

It struck us that all these elements boil down to something quite simple. FEELING. A great film makes you feel something.

One of the best performing films this year is a great example of that. 1917. It didn’t have the A-list stars in lead roles, it didn’t even have a particularly clever or thrilling story line. The whole premise is extremely simple. But what the film created in abundance was feeling. The rawness of the ‘single shot’ technique and the understated brilliance of the acting made you feel like you were walking every footstep through those trenches. Like the lead character you felt emotionally and physically exhausted by the end. When I saw it the cinema erupted into a spontaneous applause at the end – terribly un-British but something that was so appropriate for what we were all feeling.

Brands have known this for a while

This realisation is far from revolutionary – brand owners and marketers have known it for a long time. I think the advertising and market research agency System 1 put it very well in their model for success. Great brands have the 3 F’s : Fame, Feeling and Fluency. And they, quite rightly, challenged the industry to realise that so many traditional ad testing techniques we used did a really poor job at correctly diagnosing feeling.

If we’re not making our consumers/ customers FEEL something about our brands then we are on shaky ground. What is more, as the thinking on behavioural economics developed, it became apparent that those subconscious more emotional triggers were actually vital to decision making. We feel much more than we think, whether consumers realised it or not.

But what do your colleagues FEEL?

The interesting insight came when we turned this thinking not to consumers but to employees themselves. What are your colleagues feeling? What do they feel about your brand? What do they feel about your target consumers/ customers? It’s actually quite a fundamental question that can often be overlooked. Given feeling is so important it has quite far reaching implications to so many elements of your corporate culture.

There’s the HR led stuff – what do employees actually feel about the business/ brand they work for? The theory being the more positive they feel about who they work for the better they are going to be at their jobs.

But there’s also a research/ insight led side to this. Do your employees really ‘get’ your target consumer/ customer? What do they FEEL about them. Do they truly empathise with their needs? Particularly those needs that your brand addresses? The same factors influence that relationship as influence the relationship between brand and consumer or filmmaker and filmgoer. It’s not good enough for the employee to just UNDERSTAND stuff about your customer, it is far more impactful for them to FEEL something about your customer.

There are many ways to ensure this empathy of feeling exists between colleague and customer. From formal research techniques to the area that we continue to champion – customer connection. The art of getting your colleagues up and away from their desks and truly spending time with your customers.

Either way, we truly believe instilling customer empathy, that FEELING for your customers in your colleagues is a vital investment. It will better feed their ‘system 1’ subconscious minds and lead them to ultimately make better business decisions that better meet the needs of your customers. It might even win you all an Oscar one day.

Make sure you FEEL something, get up and get customer connected.