Recent research, conducted by Havas Media Group last year, concluded that only 5% of Americans believed brands “make a noticeable positive contribution to our lives.” We keep trying to make brands more human, and yet more humans are rejecting brands.

Let’s examine why that is, and what we can do as smart, strategic marketers to evolve and steward brands that are valuable to people.

Making a Useful Connection

Many brands try to anthropomorphize through character and archetype analysis (what’s the brand personality, tone, authenticity, etc.) to become more “approachable,” rather than trying to work out how they can make the brand more useful to people. When we think about anthropomorphizing, the GEICO gecko comes to mind: it’s cute and approachable, it helps GEICO lose its stuffy, government-employee image, but how does it actually help customers? Perhaps the approachability of the gecko provides an easier point of entry for consumers, but in order to be useful, that initial friendly impression must be backed up and built upon by the entire organization at every point of contact.

Talking about the brand in human terms is most helpful for employees, brand owners, and management to better understand, internalize, and act upon the desired nature and behavior of the brand.

“Useful to people” today means:

  • Human-friendly outcomes (Virgin America)
  • Being there when they think about what they need (Chipotle mobile app)
  • Easy to navigate, communicate with, good at the small stuff (Amazon)
  • Create meaning in their lives (Tom’s)
  • Empower and trust employees to deliver unique experiences (Southwest)

How to Create Distinction

Standing out in a crowded sea of advertising messaging is no small feat. Brands must connect with consumers or users on many levels to make a unique impression and create lasting value. One of the best ways to do that is to give power to the people: reach out to prospects (not just loyal customers) and ask! If you ask, they will tell you what your brand can do to be useful and meaningful to them. Have them tell you:

  • When they may be thinking about you
  • Where they look for your product or service
  • Who they ask for referrals
  • What is the most important or helpful content to them

Next, have the courage to act. Stakeholder buy-in can be tricky and political. Starting at the top and getting full buy-in from executive management is the first step in having your organization speak with a unified voice, which is crucial to building and maintaining customer trust.

We live in an ever-evolving, highly digital, and increasingly transparent world. Consumers see everything, and information about your brand and your practices is just a click away. Make the most of that knowledge by inviting your customers and prospects in and treating them as participants in your adventure—take them on the journey with you and empower them along the way and you can be sure to remain relevant, useful, and valuable.

Carrie Edwards

Author: Carrie Edwards
Date: June 9, 2014