Editor’s note: Jim Longo is chief strategy officer at Seattle-based market research firm Discuss.io.

It’s easy to become myopic in the world of business. Reducing customers to statistics and always eyeing KPIs is only natural; success lies in the numbers. Yet the more insular an organization gets, the more divorced it can be from the everyday reality of consumers lives – the thoughts and aspirations they hold, and the motivational factors that drive their spending habits.

After a year of pervasive sickness, social isolation, economic hardship and an underlying mental health crisis, it’s not enough to just sell a product. Where a brand stands, and where a consumer aligns with that position, is increasingly important. Social awareness is essential for modern brands, and arriving at that awareness needs to be a dialogue both internally and with consumers themselves.

Empathy is an organizational imperative. Now is a crucial crossroads for brands to reconnect with consumers on a human level in order to better understand what they need from brands right now. But consumer empathy isn’t just a task laid at the feet of brand development and market research teams; it needs to be an initiative woven into the fabric of the brand itself, starting at the C-level and reverberating through every level of an organization.

Empathy is not an easy concept to explain, because it’s easy to shortcut. Of course, we all know that other people have feelings. Consumer empathy isn’t merely a recognition of customer opinions; if it were, establishing consumer empathy on an organizational level would be as easy as instituting a survey program. True empathy is understanding how consumers feel, and aligning an organization around that understanding.

With that understanding, a brand can arrive at the emotional core of what motivates consumers. To quote Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will ...