How human is your brand?

A while back, I became a big believer in the idea that brands should work toward being more human. Consumers often assign brands human qualities, whether brands want them to or not. But if brands aren’t proactively managing and cultivating these human qualities, they risk being assigned some not-so-flattering traits. This phenomenon has created a significant, and ever-growing, amount of content surrounding the humanization of brands.

However, there’s really nothing new under the sun. According to Chris Malone and Susan Fiske in The Human Brand, “Early humans developed a kind of genius for making two specific kinds of quick judgements: What are the intentions of other people towards me? And how capable are they of carrying out those intentions?” As humans, we tend to anthropomorphize practically everything. I even have a pillow I call “Little Jim,” but that’s another story. The point is, you can count on people doing the same thing to your brand.

As humans, we tend to anthropomorphize practically everything.

Today, during the new reality of living through – and after – the pandemic, brands are going to have to pay even more attention to the human characteristics people give them. For the foreseeable future, if your brand doesn’t exude empathy, you’d better rethink your marketing strategy. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, 33% of people will punish brands they felt weren’t acting appropriately during the pandemic. That means they’ll stop purchasing from those brands and potentially shout their disappointment from the social media rooftops.

So, now the big question: how do we cultivate the brand personality we desire? IBM Watson has a cool tool that can analyze your company’s website and social content, giving you a rough readout of what human qualities you project. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it does make you think differently about how consumers might think about you. Those qualities can be an indicator of trust, just like they are in humans. And today, trust and empathy are top-of-mind for both brands and consumers. As a matter of fact, the Edelman Report goes on to say that how well a brand responds to the pandemic will influence 65% of future purchases. So, be proactive. Tell the story of your brand your way, before someone else does it for you. And if you’re thinking about just waiting out the storm, well, we’d suggest you ready the lifeboats.

posted on
April 30, 2020
written by
Brad White
Executive Creative Director