It seems especially difficult for B2B brands to come across as real people vs. just corporate entities.
To a large degree this might be due to the fact that B2B purchases often involve high stakes like large amounts of money or possibly even losing your job.
There is a reason why IBM had such great success with the slogan "No one ever got fired for buying IBM" in the 80s. So not surprisingly, there has been a lot of talk about "humanizing the brand" in B2B, in recent years.
- But what does that mean and does it really work?
- Are there tangible results?
It seems that social media has come to the rescue when it comes to "humanizing the brand", as social media has helped marketing to move out of the ivory tower and into 1:1 conversations with individuals. As my wise boss Tom Small at Documentum once said: "People buy from people, not corporations".
Social media makes it possible to build community spirit. People get to engage with people who share similar goals and objectives, pay-it-forward to each other (reciprocacy is becoming big), learn, help each other, have fun...something only people can do, not abstract entities.
Can You Humanize Your Brand with an App?
SAP believed that the answer was "yes" when introducing their My Runway App.
As Kelsey Wanas of SAP writes: "My Runway is a social shopping app that allows fashion enthusiasts to follow the brands they love, and get personalized updates on what's new, what is trending, and what's on sale.
- As consumers interact with the app, brands and specialty retailers can gather market statistics on these consumers, including the brands and products they favor.
- Consumers can see product details and nearby store locations - all with one tap. It allows fashion enthusiasts to collect products in their wish list and share with their friends."
SAP recently approached me to become a "My Runway Fashion Ambassador" and at first I was reluctant. As a business woman, did I want to perpetuate the stereo type of being interested in shoes and handbags? I felt the same way when I as introduced to "Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling" and the "Stiletto Network" - personally, I find stilettos painful and try to avoid them - but the women behind these networks and their members are hard-driving high-achievers who represent my values.
So, as I have been reading (and loving) Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In", I understand that the times are changing. Women can face up to loving fashion, not try to be men, and be successful (because of being themselves). As you can see, the My Runway App has taken the whole conversation to a personal level that I care about, hence, I am interested and will engage. It is working!
Here the deck SAP uses to recruit Ambassadors for the My Runway Program
Of course, the effects of "humanizing the brand" are similarly difficult to measure as the value of a brand and PR. They are difficult to isolate but nobody doubts that they bring value and their absence would be detrimental. As I am part of the SAP Ambassador program, I will continue to report on the program and its success.
Benefits of Humanizing a Brand
Here a collection of benefits that can be garnered from humanizing a brand:
- Increases brand recognition
- Breeds customer loyalty
- Builds trust
- Let's you find out who your most loyal customers are and reward them, plus turn them into brand ambassadors
- Branded communities help with customer service as members help each other, which can decrease customer support costs
- Response time to questions and problems decreases via social media (if done right), which makes people more effective
- People are more likely to engage (ask questions; tell you about problems) when you have a relationship
- Risk management: you can find out what people are saying about you and respond to it (you have to listen)
- Open dialogue leads to product innovation and improvements
- Helps marketing and sales make content more relevant - instead of "interrupting" you can become a trusted advisor
Relationships and trust have to be earned but that is why they are so valuable once they have been established. This can only happen between human beings.