What is the decisive talent of a great marketing expert?

You want to create great advertising. Communication that touches people in their core and makes them want, or even NEED your product or service. Makes them love your brand.

But what makes great advertising great? Or rather, what makes the greatest advertising people the greatest? I firmly believe the secret is not in market research, it is not knowledge of marketing theory, it is not the implementation of Golden Circles or other theories derived from the old AIDA-model. The secret lies in something you can not buy or study, but something you might be able to acquire by simply allowing yourself to let go. It is empathy.

The quality of your empathy depends on your willingness to open up your mind and allow other people’s thoughts and desires in. This is harder if you have a strong character and tend towards wanting to keep control. However, once you learn to truly understand what makes the other person tick, you can also create good advertising.

There are all kinds of tricks and techniques to help you get closer to your customer. You can make an extensive description of your typical target audience member, list his or her properties to explain what type of person they are, what car they drive, what brands they like, what makes them tick. This model – a simplified representation of reality – might be useful to explain to others  what type of person you are trying to reach and convince. But this technique of building a persona is still just a technique. It is to empathy what margarine is to butter. It does not even come close to the delightful creamy heart of the real thing.

To be able to convince your customer, you have to step into their shoes, feel their heart tick, embrace their desires and their fears. You have to be like an accomplished actress, who erases herself to become her character. This takes the courage to let go of yourself, your ‘self’.

But when you finally succeed in truly understanding your clients, see the world (and therefore your offer) from their point of view, then you might be able to use your skills in design, in writing, in communication, to actually speak to that person and ring clear. But first, there has to be empathy.

Great advertisement is not a trick or a technique, it is love.