What makes you human?
Welling up when you watch a video of otters holding hands for the 456th time? Feeling your blood pressure rise when someone cuts in front of you in the supermarket queue? Saving that last cupcake for your partner… then failing miserably and scoffing it anyway?
Hey, I know you too well.
We’re all driven by emotion, feelings, gut reactions - whatever you want to label them as. The decisions we make and the interactions we share are all unavoidably human. Firstly because we’re humans, but also because of the wide, rich spectrum of intentions, history, and emotion that are loaded into every single one of our choices, however small.
The same applies to buying products and using services too. As humans, we’re so freakin’ complex, and that complexity should be reflected in the way your brand deals with customer interactions too.
Future-proofing your brand is made easier when you concentrate on building and designing customer-focused experiences.
Shake off corporate clap-trap and robotic monotony and humanize your brand by tapping into these seven human characteristics:
1. Good Storytellers
How do you encourage and prompt emotion? The best stories have a way of making listeners feel something, and they’re a great vehicle for emotion. Ans as such, building storytelling into your marketing strategy is essential.
Create a strong narrative to hook your audience in and take them on a journey (cue cheesy music). Stories help us to understand and make sense of the world, and the same can be said for your brand.
Introduce your messaging through immersive storytelling. Here’s an excellent example – LEGO produced a short-story film to give some brand background, detailing the struggles and journey LEGO has been on.
Your narrative and stories should make sense alongside your brand identity. Make sure you’re consistent and incorporate your brand’s values and ethos into stories. Stories are especially effective, and important, if you’re a charity or non-profit looking for donations.
Need something to inspire you? Pixar are master storytellers and their short films are fantastic at tugging on your heartstrings and making your heart feel fuzzy too.
They’re always worth watching to get some insight into the elements that make up a short story, and the tools they use to build emotion.
2. Tone of Voice
“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”.
Now, come on, confess, how many times have you heard this in an argument?
We can learn a lot from this phrase though. Obviously what you say is important, but how you deliver your messages is really worth focusing on.
The tone is almost a magical ingredient - it can be difficult to identify sometimes, but it’s that extra bit of character and personality that sets one brand apart from another.
Finding what works for your brand is essential. You could have a more straight-forward, serious tone, or a quirky, goofy approach, and a whole host of other options in between. It all depends on your product, audience and brand identity.
The key is that your tone should act as an extension of your brand’s identity. The copy you use helps to deliver a message and tell your audience who you are and what you represent. Talking to customers like people, instead of just customers, is a good first step.
Creating a tone of voice guide for your brand can help to establish a consistent approach for your customer service interactions, across your social channels, and on every platform. If everyone's on board, then your customers will start to associate clear personality traits with your brand.
Take a couple of minutes and look at smoothie maker, Innocent.
On every part of their website, on every platform, their TOV shines through – playful, fun and friendly.
3. Honesty is the Best Policy
In an uncertain world, customers are looking for brands that they can rely on - they want strong, stable and they’re searching for authenticity.
Authenticity is important to 86% of customers and 57% believe that less than half of brands are delivering this.
What’s being authentic? Well, it’s about being accountable, transparent and honest – which can mean owning up to mistakes or sub-standard performance. Take, for example, this recent ad from KFC in the UK, which is in response to them inexplicably running out of chicken.
Your copy doesn’t have to be scintillating if you can deliver good, honest product info, and own up when you’ve made a mistake.
Personalization involves utilizing data-driven approaches, enabling you to get to know your customers on a deeper level. From there, you can build more accurate customer personas and define specific audience segments.
And like authenticity, customers want personalization – Accenture found 48% of customers expect special treatment for being good or loyal customers. But be careful - while many consumers want custom-tailored service and personal recommendations, they also want to protect their privacy. As such, you need to be transparent and open about your data collection. If there’s no perceived value, customers will be wary of giving their data away.
Learning about your customers comes from analyzing elements, including purchase behaviors and preferences. But in addition to this, it’s also useful to think about the ‘human’ nature of ever-changing needs, contexts, and expectations.
For example, look beyond a traditional customer journey and see what you can add to take into account the individual nature of a customer, and cater to hyper-relevant experiences (without being too creepy). Here's a simple example - if you’re a card-maker and someone buys a 'Happy Birthday' card, why not throw in a free balloon or party popper too and add to the process.
5. Interact with Customers
The perfect way to show the human side of your brand is through your interactions with customers. This gives people the opportunity to peek behind the curtain at your brand, and enables you to play out your brand identity and tone of voice.
Play around on social channels and chat with customers and followers who mention and engage with your brand. Ask questions and have fun with trending topics and seasonal trends. Reach out instead of waiting for customers to make the first move, and use social listening to offer customer support and intervene too.
Social channels give you a great way to build more meaningful connections - all you need to do is visit any big retailer’s Twitter or Facebook Page and you’ll usually find messages and conversations signed off by different employees, giving an identity to the person a customer is chatting to.
Your team can be chatty, quirky and funny online, and you don't have to be afraid to show the employees behind your channels. Let them take part in visual content, have fun on your platforms and add a level of spontaneity for your audience
6. Give your Audience a Platform
Your brand is more human when you listen to customers, empathize with them and give them a voice.
A great way to do this is through user-generated content on your social channels - 60% of customers think that consumer-created content is the most authentic, so using this as part of your marketing strategy can be really effective.
Highlight social posts and reviews from influencers and top followers, but focus on encouraging organic social posts from friends, family, and peers, as consumers tend to find this more credible. You can also do this through brilliant customer service, great products, and fantastic design, but try to incentivize social posts by engaging with customers that do so, and rewarding them with platform take-overs etc.
One of the best ways to position your brand is to become known for a certain personality trait. If customers can distinguish your brand as something then it helps to draw audiences, because they can relate to your business' traits
Your brand could be funny, which can be one of the best ways to communicate messages (don’t force it though, if you weren’t born with the funny bone and it feels unnatural then it’ll probably come across to customers). Laughter is a force of nature and can help you bond with customers.
Maybe you’re a generous and kind-hearted brand, especially when it comes to philanthropic work and helping your local community.
Nike is a good example of a motivational brand – urging customers to try something new and give it their all.
There’s a whole load of traits that can make up your brand identity, and you need to work on social strategies and marketing campaigns that help people to identify your brand as ‘something’ and human.
So what are you waiting for – go out there and show off your brand’s human side. Shake off the shackles of boring, corporate mundanity and give your customers an insight into the life-force that goes into your business and the traits that make it unique.
A version of this post was first published on Bryan Kramer's blog.