Add more content here...
June, 2024

Democratising marketing’s most powerful skill – empathy

Arguably, empathy is the most powerful skill marketers bring to the boardroom. Empathy is our most fun story to tell, our superpower, and at times even our get out of jail free card.

In vividly representing our customers within the organisation, we offer a critical shortcut to driving growth.

But casting a net for fancy empathetic insights skills isn’t enough. The thinking and process to truly capture and deliver value from them is another kettle of fish. And what if we told you that this fish was going to be prepared by a cross-functional team that might not have so much as picked up a knife before?

The plot – and this metaphor – thickens.

What where when?

Our task was to get a cross-functional team into the kitchen and show them how to cook, or in this case, how to find customer insights that shape a go to market approach for a complex product innovation within ANZ’s Institutional bank.

We wanted to develop our go-to-market plan while upskilling a team of product and sales people to learn the process and be able to apply it again later. Finally, our Institutional marketing team also came along for a refresher. Here’s what we learned from the process.

Theory is fantastic, but memory fades

At ANZ, developing our breadth and depth of marketing capability is an ongoing commitment for all marketers across the bank, and we’re very lucky to be supported by a Marketing Capability team that underpins our growth. ANZ’s Marketing Capability Program, Marketing Masters, addresses core marketing capabilities including personalisation, discovery and insights, storytelling, creative and media, in environments ranging from group learning through to bespoke one on one coaching. I know… very lucky!

So we thought we’d start by asking the experts. Our Marketing Capability colleagues had developed a proposition development learning experience which steps the learner through a human-centered design process for understanding opportunity, using empathy to immerse and synthesise along the way to creating a compelling go to market proposition. In running this marketer favourite over several years, we’d noticed our best wins coming when people were able to cement their classroom learning by immediately putting it into practice in their day job. So, with a large learning group of non-marketers to train, the advice was to learn on-the-job – and luckily we had the perfect live project to work with.

Building capability in real time

Our project that was underway and gaining traction for launch was a significant and complex product that will engage all Australians, from big businesses to everyday customers. The business imperative was clear, we had a best-in-class methodology to work with, and a ninja administrative team and very firm deadline kept things sharp.

Whilst marketing had a leadership role as part of this process, the focus was on democratising the process and building the skills needed to truly understand the needs of who we were targeting, and developing a compelling proposition based on their needs. Each step was collaboratively designed for the cross functional team to experience live and in real time with a real product, making the experience about as real and memorable as it gets!

The joy of insights

One of most wonderful parts of this process was the joy of resonant moments as marketing, sales and product colleagues walked in the shoes of customers. We used empathy techniques to understand our customers’ worlds and applied that understanding in developing insights to take to market. Although many people in the project team talk to customers every day, this process enabled a different kind of conversation, and one they got true value from. Arming them with the skills to launch and navigate this conversation to understand customers better was a standout success as part of this process.

Driving new outcomes for marketing

This approach of collaboratively sharing tools that marketers know drive value has been a true gamechanger not only the way we go to market, but also the way we work together as teams. Developing empathy, walking in the shoes of customers, and empowering our cross functional teams to dig deeper has become somewhat of a drug – the invites to immersion sessions have been rolling in ever since! Marketing has been deeply embedded into the go to market process, all by sharing one of our most powerful skills and challenging traditional training methods to do it well.


Taking the road less traditional in adapting learning to the opportunity and sharing our marketing knowledge to collaborate around customer has been a game-changer for us at ANZ. Now it’s not just the marketers who can prepare the perfect kettle of fish!