by John Taite, EVP, Global Brand Partnerships and Development
Have you noticed anything different about your LinkedIn feed lately? The usual stream of self-promotion, brand spam and auto-populated “congrats!” have taken a back seat. People are actually helping one another; sharing their expertise; giving away reports and resources that would normally cost thousands of dollars; hard-to-reach CEOs and CMOs are streaming Q&As, like superheroes on a Comic Con panel. Even a billion-dollar money-spinner like Cannes Lions provided a free, digital version of their programming this year.
It may have taken a global pandemic, but people want to be here for each other right now. Open-source knowledge, collective empathy and purpose-driven leadership are all signs of a paradigm shift. We’re entering a new era of emotional intelligence.
Could I be more tuned in right now because of personal reasons?
Quite possibly! My wife and I were blessed with the arrival of our first child together recently – in New York City at the height of the COVID-19 quarantine. When we emerged from the hospital, we felt like we’d developed a new set of nerve endings. The extremes of that experience had brought our priorities into sharp focus. Maybe you’ve been feeling the same way?
During a moment of sleep-deprived optimism, I shared something on LinkedIn about the important role emotional intelligence will play in our post-pandemic, new and improved normal. My post took off like a rocket and clocked up tens of thousands of impressions, which – not gonna lie – was both surprising and exciting. It’s always nice to know other people are noticing the trend.
It sounded a bit like LinkedIn’s version of a Buzzfeed Quiz:
You can click here to see the original post, or to save some time, see the checklist below.
The list summarized years of studies that show a correlation between high EQ and performance. The research was focused on individuals, but the same rationale can be applied to modern businesses. Take another look at those core competencies – how does your own company stack up? Where could you lean in and grow?
As a savvy consumer, you’ve probably recognized changes in your own expectations recently. Customers want the companies they support to behave in more “human” ways. Non-sentient brands are now expected to make people feel something. A recent youth trend report from Dazed media found that 70% of people think “having a point of view” makes a brand influential, vs 14% who think creating the latest product marks influence. Cultural relevance is everything right now and emotional intelligence will become a new form of currency for brands.
That’s why your LinkedIn feed is changing…for the better. That’s why we all cringed at those “unprecedented times” TV commercials with the same script, the same stock footage and the same brain-sedating music. That’s why you’re on Zoom calls about socially distant customer journeys and multi-sensory branding; because if you can’t make your audience feel something authentic right now, you’re getting left behind. And nobody wants to be known as a pre-COVID brand.
We are in the midst of a rapid shift in consumer behavior and expectations. Brands can’t afford to keep their pre-pandemic strategies in a post-pandemic, emotionally charged culture.
The early adopters in multi-sensory branding are already ahead of the game. They’ve discovered, charted and perfected the influence of emotional connections at every possible touchpoint. Take the power of sound, for example. There’s a reason the “Audio Renaissance” has had such a cultural impact this year; humans think about what they see, but they feel what they hear.
When most people think of the audio renaissance, they think of podcasts or platforms, like Spotify or voice assistants, like Alexa. But beneath the surface, there are a multitude of ways our emotions are being subconsciously triggered by sound and music. From sonic identity systems (as sophisticated and powerful as visual identities) to immersive sound design, from voice commerce and environmental enhancers to UX/UI sounds that make a product feel intuitive and more human. Even those nostalgia-triggering jingles are having a moment, albeit through a TikTok lens. The reason modern “360 brands” are scoring every possible interaction is because they know we’ll keep choosing the experiences that move us.
The best thing about emotional intelligence is that it can be developed and improved. The brands with high EQ have read the room and pivoted to ensure they genuinely connect with their customers. Their customers have all been on journeys of self-discovery, they’re different people now.
The good news is there are signs of progress everywhere. Companies that succeeded in the past by shouting the loudest have started to listen. Big Tech is starting to build drawbridges over their moats. World leaders, like New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, are showing the way with honest communication, empathy and respect. And the brands you love — truly love — are the ones focused on making a difference, driven by a sense of purpose and a commitment to belonging, dignity and justice more than ever before.
People are demanding a post-COVID “normal” that is both new and improved. If you want your brand to mean something in their world, be the silver lining.
Want to get in touch? Reach out to John Taite.