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Harnessing the human side of brands


On June 3rd, 2019, we had a delightful and insightful presentation from best-selling author Mark Schaefer who shared a human-centered approach to brand strategy and marketing for today’s tech-driven consumer. This event was part of the NY Branding meetup and hosted by CoreConnect.

Here are the main takeaways from this event.

It’s not working anymore…

Mark began his talk by recalling that in the past few years, the majority of his clients kept saying that their “marketing isn’t working like it used to” and that they felt stuck. The traditional model of moving the customer from brand awareness, to trust, to loyalty is not effective anymore. Inevitably, a new way of approaching and connecting with audiences is needed.

Research reveals the truth

Through his research in his new book “Marketing Rebellion,” Mark revealed that consumers are increasingly likely to have a negative reaction to a company’s attempt to earn their loyalty. Namely, only 13% are loyal. Another striking statistic is that as much as 2/3 of your marketing is occurring without you. In other words, the brand is now controlled mostly by the consumer, such as how they share content in social media, provide reviews, likes, etc. In the past, 90% was controlled by the brand, and 10% by the customer…but he exclaimed that “By 2025, this will become 90/10 the other way. The customers are in control. The customers are the marketers.”

Advertising as we know it, is dying. It’s time to recognize our reality. We can’t keep doing marketing like we have done in the past, and expect the same results. Let's wake up!

Time to switch to a human-centered approach

A new approach and strategies are now needed—we need to connect with audiences in a human way. Here are a few human-centered ideas that Mark shared to effectively connect emotionally with today’s customer:

  • Stop doing what customers hate. Get out there and talk to your customers to learn about what they love. Don’t get stuck behind a dashboard or relentless social listening…talk to them to truly know them better.

  • Technology should be invisible to the customer. Technology should be used to help your company be more compassionate, receptive, and useful.

  • Be fans of your fans. Make your customers the heroes of your story. Instead of doing a typical ad, present content from your customers' life—as they are—and celebrate them. A great example is the following North Face video that showcases videos created by individuals telling their story. This in turn, positions them as the hero…and the marketer.

Our addiction to measurement

One of the reasons for digital's pervasiveness is that it greatly facilitates the measurement of specific metrics (eg, impressions, clicks, etc). Even the great business manager Peter Druker said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” But if we need to move towards human centricity, how do we measure in the new human approach realm? For example, how can we measure belonging? Mark admitted that we don’t know all the answers on this aspect, and encouraged us to experiment with new ideas to address this challenge. It’s Ok to say that we don’t fully know the answer, and start taking the first step in giving ourselves the space for exploration and creativity in finding solutions.

Purpose and polarization

Some businesses might want to position themselves to support a cause that exemplifies their humanness, but might be afraid to loose some customers through potential alienation. Mark starts first by pointing out that not all companies need to take a strong stance of purpose—you need to make a decision that is best for your company [You can view my purpose-driven article that explains various ways to integrate purpose in your business]. If a business does embark on the purpose path, it needs to be true and align to its DNA and values—and not do it to just to get brownie points. People have a very good bs radar and can smell unauthencity a mile away. Finally, purpose does not have to be polarizing (as it did with the Nike Kaepernick ad), it can actually unify people of different point of views and facilitate “shared meaning”. The following video from Heineken demonstrates the power of brand values that bring people together in an innovative way.

People taking a stand

In essence, people have had it. Customers are saying “You have to respect me”…respect my time, respect my life, respect my privacy, respect ME. Marketers need to recognize this cultural wokeness and stop bombarding people with digital annoyances (eg, pop-up, spam, etc.). We need to focus on Being More Human.

Opportunity to elevate humanity

It is crucial to note that beyond marketing and building a great business, a human-centered approach enables us to elevate the human experience as a whole by helping our customers feel more dignified, as well as helping ourselves, as brand strategists and marketers, feel more dignified in adopting this beautiful new paradigm.

This meetup was hosted by CoreConnect. A big thank you to Shareablee for providing the space for this event! Please join us for our next NY Branding Meetup, get info here.

#branding #marketing #purpose #strategy #business