#empathy19: Consumer Closeness

The empathy gap is growing, not shrinking.
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About The Event


Everyone’s doing it all the time. Boardrooms around the world preach of their consumer centricity (or closeness or empathy).

But hold on. Why are companies still launching dud products, still giving consumers a bad experience, or one that that doesn’t match with the brand?

Is the reality that empathising is hard, or the ways we have been doing it are wrong - or is it that we simply haven't been able to communicate back to our businesses what needs to be done? Are people saying we have to be close to the customer because they feel they should, that they need to tick a box, or do they genuinely want to understand customers and change their businesses to suit them?

We will be hearing from clients, agencies and communicators - to consider which methods really help us understand the consumer better - and how we turn that understanding into action inside our businesses.

We’ll also be combining learnings from our two previous events -  #empathy18: Finding Truth (10/18), and #storytelling18: The Power of Storytelling (03/18). Alex Batchelor will chair the day.


Sarah Jousiffe_

Sarah Jousiffe

Head of Qual, Closeness & Insight Engagement

Hayley Ward

Hayley Ward

Head of Insight Partnerships

dan gould

Dan Gould

Human Truths Manager


Dan Dewsbury

Director of ‘The Mighty Redcar’

Rebecca Lowenthal-Bell_

Rebecca Lowenthal-Bell

Human & Cultural Insights

Simon Horton_

Simon Horton

Negotiation Mastery

Gareth Tennant

Gareth Tennant

Director, Decison Advantage Consulting & Senior Consultant, RJD Technology

Peter Higgin_

Peter Higgin

Director of Enrichment & Punchdrunk Village

Danny Russell_

Danny Russell

Consultant, DRC & Chief Advisor, Watch Me Think

Alex Batchelor

Alex Batchelor

Non-Exec Chair
Watch Me Think

Alistair Vince

Alistair Vince

CEO/Chief Tinkerer
Watch Me Think


Rob Campbell

Head of Strategy


The Widening Empathy Gap
Alistair Vince, Watch Me Think, will kick off giving an overview of the widening empathy gap and some of the reasons why it’s happening and asking whether our obsession with data is causing it. He’ll address questions that should be asked within a company about their research mix (looking at claimed vs. actual behaviour) and about the value of an effective consumer closeness programme.
The Challenges that Consumer Centricity Gives Us
Danny Russell will give an overview of the challenges that consumer centricity gives us, and how it's time to put the hands up and say, things have to change. He’ll pose challenges to the client speakers to address in their talks.
How to Accelerate and Build a Consumer Closeness Programme
Sarah Jousiffe from Sky will talk about the multiple programmes they have in place, the tools they use, and how they have developed over time. Things they’ve learnt, hurdles they’ve hit, and the impact their programme has had since.
Work Harder at Consumer Closeness
Hayley Ward will talk about how M&S need to work harder at Consumer closeness - that they are very much as the start of the process and that it’s a combination of breaking down old internal walls, as well as finding the right methodologies.
How to Build the Empathy Muscle
Dan Gould - Human Truths Manager, Google will talk about "How to Build Your Empathy Muscle" based on his personal research around the deep structure behind empathy (how and why you can build this capacity) - it also has a lot to do with an unspoken practice that underlies insights and creativity.
The Challenge & Responsibility of Portraying the Right Message (Q&A)
Dan Dewsbury directed ‘The Mighty Redcar’, a documentary series about one being young in one of the poorest areas of Britain. In a Q&A with Alistair Vince, he will talk around the challenge and responsibility of portraying the right message. About working with the contributors and dealing with cynicism and building trust. His insights into this as a documentary maker can all be applied into consumer empathy programmes. (We will be showing clips of The Mighty Redcar before the Q&A).
Can Hostage Negotiators Help You in Your World?
Simon Horton, Founder of Negotiation Mastery will discuss Can Hostage Negotiators Help You in Your World? We are negotiating all the time. Whether with clients, suppliers or the hundreds of micro-negotiations that take place every day with our colleagues, it is all negotiation. So if we can get better at negotiation, it can improve so many areas of our work. This session will look at a 5-step framework used by hostage negotiators to get exceptional results even in extreme circumstances and how we can apply it in the workplace to get better outcomes.
Decision Making in Complex Environments
How can we make effective decisions under conditions of uncertainty? Gareth Tennant will introduce the factors involved in decision making and explore the processes individuals and organisations go through when are trying to rationalise complexity. By drawing comparisons between the chaos of combat and the challenges faced by exposure to a vast amount of data and information, he will introduce the hard-fought lessons from military intelligence and planning techniques to overcome information paralysis. Looking at the relationship between data and intelligence (in the military sense of the word) and how this is affected by factors such as heuristics, culture and consequence Gareth will also talk through the relationship between strategy, tactics and planning: the linking of an often ethereal vision to tangible day to day activities.
Understanding Audiences Through Experiences
Pete will talk about getting to know audiences and creating experiences for them and their organisations. After a brief overview of Punchdrunk's aim and impact, he'll show a couple of case studies and the impact they have brought predominantly around the enrichment work across the Loss Lending Library, Greenhive Green and Oracles. The common themes explored being multisensory storytelling, audience agency, audience as protagonist, blurring of reality and fiction, & heightened engagement.
Our Empathy Program at PepsiCo
Rebecca Lowenthal-Bell from Pepsico will talk about how their empathy programmes have changed, and why. How they have learnt and developed the programme along the way, the opportunities that have presented, and their expectations from it. Plus, exploring the challenges of doing this in a huge multi-category, multi-national company
Don't Blame The Insight, Blame The Person Claiming It
Insights are important because culture is important … and if you know how the culture around categories think, act, operate and interact, then you have information that not only lets you create work that feels born from inside the culture, but can open doors to new possibilities. I’m amazed this discussion is still going on because we all know insights matter, it’s where we’re getting them from and how we’re using them that is key. And yet we like to debate the things that we know matter and ignore the fact the majority of the work that’s being put out is an exercise in how to bore the fuck out of everyone with insanely and inanely rational communication. And yes, I blame clients as much as planners and agencies for this.

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About the Event Organizer

Many organisations say something on their website like "We walk in consumers shoes".

But living up to that promise, especially in the face of increased pressure on both global research and travel budgets is a challenge.

That's where we come in. We are asked to help insights teams who feel their consumer closeness programs are not working. As a full-service qualitative behavioral research agency, specialising in getting up close and personal with consumers through the power of video, Watch Me Think gets real, in-the-moment, honest sentiment and observation, bringing you closer to your real consumer.
Walk in your consumer's shoes


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