Bozoma Saint John thinks and talks about empathy quite a bit. For the marketing executive and SXSW 2019 Convergence Keynote speaker, this is integral to the work that she does currently as chief marketing officer for Endeavor, and it’s been an important feature of her previous work with companies such as PepsiCo, Apple and Uber. As she explains, empathy is what makes the difference in actually being able to establish impactful connections through storytelling and marketing.
“The thing about empathy is it’s not so much tolerating somebody, it’s understanding somebody,” Saint John says. “There’s a big difference because tolerating somebody means that you really are not invested in the outcome … If we were all more empathetic about what is happening with the person next to us, it would spur us to action.”
This is the mindset with which she approaches marketing, but it is based on an understanding that Saint John began to develop at a young age when change was constant. She was born in Connecticut to Ghanaian parents, then moved to Ghana when she was six months old. She moved to Washington, D.C. when she was five; then to Orange County, California; then to Nairobi, Kenya; and back to Ghana again before her family finally settled in Colorado when she was 12.
“By the time I got to Colorado Springs, I was already pretty used to moving around a bit,” Saint John understates. “I was used to having to create and re-create identity a lot.”