Social media, blogs and other means of communication that companies use today, give them an unprecedented access to their customer base. The question is: is your organization using it to their benefit?
Humanizing a brand can bridge the gap between a faceless corporation and a brand which people are not only fans of but also ambassadors of. Look at brands such as Apple, Coke and Nike. They are so closely associated with their market base, that you can practically conjure an image of the type of users that prefer the aforementioned products. So the benefits of humanizing your brand are obvious, but how do you do it?
I know that all you business types completely geek out on military terms so here’s the first, strategy. The reason you need a plan is because of the multiple variables that you will have to deal when humanizing your brand like company culture, core company values, community/social engagement and of course how your humanizing strategy fits into the company’s current activity.
For example, it would be slightly oxymoronic for an infamously irresponsible petro-chemical company to suddenly invest in environmental preservation and alternative energy. The fact that it goes against their interests would raise eyebrows and the sudden shift would alienate the customers that they already have. So an ill-advised attempt at humanizing your brand might actually damage your brand rather than benefit it.
I am not talking about the type of engagement I mentioned in the previous entry but boots on the ground (see I’m still using military terminology to please you big wigs) straight to customer engagement. Due to the practically universal adaptation of social media, you and your team have unprecedented access to your customers and consumers of your products.
Take advantage of that access to communicate with your customer, see what they think about your brand, have a genuine conversation about what they think can help humanize your brand, where they expect the brand to go in the future and maybe even what you could do to update your product, brand or services.
The easiest way to humanize a brand though is to give it an actual honest-to-god human face in the form of a spokesperson or brand ambassador. There are numerous examples; most obvious are brands like Nike and Reebok using star athletes to either endorse their products (by wearing them) or actually being a spokesperson for the brand (there are way too many, so I’m only going to mention Michael Jordan because he’s Michael Jordan).
You need to be careful though because if you associate your brand too closely to a single individual and said individual is involved in a scandal, then that scandal might involve your brand too…remember what happened with this sandwich scarfing scandal? Of course, you also have that whole swimming and smoking scandal too. You also need to keep in mind that the person is often political, so your spokesperson or ambassador needs to be screened thoroughly so that the company’s message and their own personal message doesn’t conflict and confuse customers.
Humanizing a brand isn’t a numbers game, bombarding your loyal and new customers with emails regarding the latest news, products or sales will have the opposite effect. You will start seeming like a faceless entity hell-bent on disseminating rather than connecting. Engage in a two-way exchange, not a monologue. See if you can get your customers to give you feedback or comments. If one method isn’t yielding results try a different method, maybe even promise them promotional gifts to get them talking about your brand.
We all know nothing is more humanizing than pets. So getting your customers to use a promotional t-shirt as bedding for hamster cages is a perfect way to engage with your audience. Try to make it a competition or a joke! Tell people to send you photos of the most creative uses for the t-shirts or write instructions on the shirts to show them alternative uses for the shirt like a make-shift ninja mask.
Some people have an inherent skill at making connections, communicating and understanding other’s feelings. Some of these people are in fact so talented at this that they get paid to do it. Instead of investing heavily in training when you’re ready to humanize your brand try recruiting the right talent even if you do have to pay them a little bit more.
You might think that it would be cheaper to hire someone and then train them up. But, it is cheaper, in the long term, to recruit someone that is ready to go, you could learn from and has a diverse portfolio of experience that they can draw from if their initial strategy doesn’t work.
Actually Be Human
The most effective way of humanizing your brand is to stop thinking about the bottom line, overhead costs and investments. I know ultimately it’s a business and those are the main objectives and concerns when you do have a business to run, but customer loyalty will pay off in the long run by giving you a rich customer base to work off of and develop. Remember that Apple Inc. wasn’t the brand loyalty behemoth it is today until it released the very first iMac decades after the brand started.
Do you know of any other tips and benefits of humanizing your brand? Let us know in the comment section below.