Marketeers: What can you learn from a 15 year old with an iPhone?

September 21, 2021

Have you ever wondered how a teenager with a smartphone can create more media attention than a brand with a huge marketing team? 

Photo credit: Instagram

One major difference between the two is that a fifteen year old never strives for quick conversions, a budget or sales targets. A fifteen year old creates content which they believe their target audience wants to consume and with a genuine passion for the format and the unwritten codes of the platform of choice. 

The problem with marketing

Today’s communication and marketing landscape has become associated with direct conversions. Creativity is strangled by marketers who don't get the opportunity to test new approaches or long-term strategies since their superiors believe they need return on investment for every dollar they spend; and they need to be able to prove that they have a winning formula instantly measured in clicks, bounce rates and conversions. The downside of the “measure everything” approach to marketing is that the message got lost along the way and the actual needs and wants of the consumers gets reduced to analytical statistics. 


“Ask not what your brand evokes, ask what evokes the brand”

- Byron Sharp



Introducing the term: Digital Empathy


Imagine walking down the street with a shopping bag under your arm containing a freshly bought pair of sneakers.

Now ask yourself: How would you feel if the seller chased you down the street and kept asking you to buy the same shoes again? Or if every shop owner on the street tried called out to you by your name and followed you home to pitch stuff that matched the sneakers? You’d probably call the police and get a restraining order against those shop owners!

Yet somehow, we accept this as part of the online experience and a part of “digital marketing”.

Digital empathy is all about this: to dare think outside-in instead of inside-out. To truly understand and value how your brand is being perceived by your valuable customers. You should not think about what you want to communicate to your audience rather what your audience wants to hear from you.

We cannot ignore that  the intrusive “buy now” campaign which has been seen by millions of people and “converted well” might also be more than a “successful campaign”. To ignore the millions who felt your ad was irrelevant, intrusive and left them with a negative perception of your brand is a costly game. The true casualty of aggressive, targeted ads is not the consumer that gets annoyed, in the long game it’s your brand.

So how do we level-up on digital empathy?

"Don’t propose on the first date" is a pretty good rule of thumb is the dating game. It’s equally true in the art of marketing: Communicate first and then convert. 

Understanding and improving on your  customer journey is both righteous and smart. But we must also accept that it’s impossible to measure everything. An influencer needs to create a community by creating an audience through engaging content. A successful podcast needs to create qualitative episodes for a long period of time to get many listeners. By creating engaging communication without direct monetary objectives we can start begin building a repor with an audience and create a community that gives us the possibility to convert into business opportunities in a sustainable way in the long run. It might take a bit longer but so what if the end result is more profitable and valuable?


According to GlobalWebindex latest report nearly 40 % of the world’s population has an Adblocker installed. Over 52 % out of

these are installed on devices used by those under 34 years. Nearly 50 % use an Adblocker because they believe today’s advertising is too intrusive or disturbing. Digital empathy is just thinking about how your communication is being perceived.

So ask yourself: "How you can I create long-term relationships and reach my audience in a non-intrusive way?" Answer: Trust your instincts. You're as human as your own customers. How does your advertising TRULY make you feel?

In a digital landscape where competition is higher than ever we must dare to create content that deserves attention and an audience. A take-over format is not “engaging” with it’s  high click-through-rates, they are the result of most of us clicking the stuff away by mistake. 

We need to understand that our brand and messaging can  no longer aim to win by being “the loudest voice” in a world where everyone is shouting for attention. We need our creative, empathetic and careful marketeers more now than ever before.

Henric Smolak
Co-founder Strossle 

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