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Digital Empathy

What Colour is Your Big Bird? A Lesson on Digital Empathy™

By March 10, 2021March 15th, 2022No Comments
Digital Empathy What colour is your big bird

When someone mentions “Big Bird”, if you’re from North America you probably think about the big yellow bird from Sesame Street. This would demonstrate that you’ve grown up watching TV in North America, because the big bird that Americans and Canadians watch is yellow.

However, Twitter was recently abuzz with the revelation that Big Bird is not so yellow in other countries.  For example in the Netherlands it’s purple. This was later confirmed by the Big Bird himself, who wrote on Twitter “I heard my friends on Twitter were asking about my cousins around the world! It’s true, I have a lot of bird cousins in different countries. Here’s a little bit about them..” The Big Bird then went about introducing his various look-alikes, in different colours and forms, based in various parts of the world.

Big Bird Digital Empathy

We can only deduce that Sesame Street co-productions in several countries around the world have tailored the show for local audiences. Even if the script for a particular show is essentially the same (with obvious language translations), the use of different costumes in different geographies serves an important purpose: invoke the trust amongst the audience by relating the character to people from different cultures. The power of the nuances in Big Bird’s colouring is substantial. By using colours, terms, phrasing, and references that feel familiar, this creates trust between a viewer and a character, and that trust results in a willingness to engage and share, thereby improving brand loyalty and consistent viewership in this case. This is an example of personalization that engenders greater trust and enhances people’s experience.

Tickit Health amplifies the concept of personalization by building Digitally Empathetic technology for organizations serving diverse populations. At the core of Digital Empathy is the goal of leveraging technology to align communication with the focus audience in order to create an enhanced user experience. At every level, organizations depend on accurate, comprehensive, and actionable data to perform. However, organizations fail to take into account that the individual’s ability to trust the data collection process, which can deter the individual’s ability to share their personal information and needs effectively, thereby resulting in poor quality data collected.

Big Bird’s appearance has changed over the years, as has his personality. He originally had very few feathers on top of his head; his body feathers were also more shaggy and unkempt, and his body was not as rounded and full as it is now. His personality was more dopey and “bird-brained” than it later became. He gradually got more feathers on top, giving his head a more rounded appearance, and developed a blaze-like crest of lighter yellow feathers above his eyes. His body got fluffier, rounder and more well-groomed.

His personality developed over time from being a dim, slow-witted character into the childlike innocence he is known for today. –Wikipedia

When we ask a person a question, we often ask that question from our own place of reference; if we ask a different person that same question, it may be interpreted in a completely different way. Trust and familiarity have a significant impact on the responses of questions in a survey or assessment. The impact is measurable and significant. It’s not only across geographic or cultural boundaries where the changes are important. Age, literacy, gender, and physical context are all considered with Digital Empathy, as we modify a question into versions that are empathetic to the person being asked. When put to practice, research has shown that Digital Empathy improves response rates with higher quality data capture, creating less staff burden. This is critical when screening patients, students, or employees for risky behaviours or behavioural and other health and wellness risks.

Now you have a better understanding of why when I think of Big Bird, he’s a big purple bird, but you imagine a big yellow bird. While that empathetic nuance may be subtle, the fact of the matter is that it helps both of us to trust what he has to say. And that makes us all better global citizens.