Branding

At a time when brands are fast becoming increasingly throwaway; perceived as both and online, a new breed of marketing is emerging that is seeing companies return to a more emotional tangible style of marketing message.

The idea of ‘humanizing’ a brand is nothing new; companies have been implementing tactics for decades that appeal to emotions and show the personality behind their company. But in 2013, humanizing your brand is about more than becoming approachable.

Just another bit of marketing jargon?

“Integrated solutions”, “social engagement”, and “low hanging fruit”; three marketing buzzwords we’re all guilty of using at one time and another.

As with many buzzwords in the marketing sphere (there’s another one for you!), they end up meaning very little. But the latest word we’re hearing more and more often – humanization – is more than just ‘marketing speak’.

Take the newly reformed TSB bank.

Since its split with Lloyds Bank earlier this month, the UK retailer has invested heavily in a localised, humanized marketing campaign. Billboards with local messages – “Hello Birmingham” etc. – have taken pride of place on British high streets, and the simple positioning is a great example of brand humanization at work.

Transforming perceptions, transforming brand positioning

So, why the switch?

A more human approach to marketing is just one part of a shift away from the unobtainable corporate Blue Chips of yesteryear. With trust in retailers at a low, and spending not far behind, brands are striving to rebuild these relationships.

Companies want to demonstrate that they value their customers; more than putting a friendly face (or voice) behind them, brands are striving for a more personalised approach to their marketing methods.

The rise of social media has made it easier than ever for brands to add a little more personality to their faceless institutions. With Facebook and Twitter becoming more important than anyone could have predicted, it’s essential that you strike the perfect balance of human interaction and brand-led posts.

‘Human’ brands are more approachable, and brands that are deemed to be approachable and customer-centric inevitably boast higher footfall and sales. This is, of course, the ultimate goal for any brand. So how do you go about achieving it?

In both bricks-and-mortar stores, as well as ecommerce, there are a number of ways in which you can humanize your brand:

1. The customer is always right

This might be an old-school mantra, but it’s one that brands should still stick with today.

If you want to build strong and lasting relationships with your customers – the kind that keep them coming back time and time again – you need to have them at the heart of everything you do. This means going above and beyond, and always working to exceed their expectations.

For bricks-and-mortar retailers, this means offering unrivalled levels of customer service; going out of your way to help customers find what they want is all part of that nostalgic shopping experience we’re missing in the online world. Ecommerce retailers need to boast user-friendly websites that make buying from you quick and convenient.

But above all, your brand needs to put the customer first. Provide them with tailored offers – something that might not be far away, according to the Grimsey report – and be a warm, friendly face when they walk through the door.

2. Make the most of your physical space

For retailers with a physical presence, humanising your brand remains important.

Everything from the way your staff work, to the design of your store all impact on customer perceptions; it is therefore, important that you think carefully about what each individual element says about your brand.

A great tip for making the most of your retail space is to make it as experiential as possible. In order to thrive in today’s retail space, you need to be providing a winning customer experience. This could be anything from product trials, right through to interactive and innovative in-store displays.

The sky really is the limit in modern retail design, and ‘human’ brands are already shifting focus to providing these kind of experiences for their consumers.

3. Publicise your ambassadors

Whether you have a physical retail space or not, you can still put a face to your business.

One brand that does this really well is Uber.

On their Facebook Page, they have a photo album filled with images of the team that manage the social media. This helps customers identify exactly who they’re talking to, and helps to create a rapport – and even a bond – with the brand.

By publicising your brand ambassadors – in any way which you see fit – you instantly bring that human element to you company. Your customers will enjoy putting a face to a name, and will find it much easier to interact with you on a personal level.

Humanising your brand is a hugely important right now. Money is tight, and spending patterns have changed. Consumers need to feel they trust you before they part with their cash, and becoming more people-centric is one of the best ways you can do this.