When the Dubai Crown Prince came to realize that his city was being perceived as a dry, even cold destination by many foreigners, he quickly took to social media to turn things around. Last year, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum deployed Operation Hashtag #MyDubai, encouraging people to share their local photos and experiences with the online world.

“The agenda was simple: to create an autobiography of a city through the eyes of its residents,” Dubai Tourism CEO Issam Kazim said in an interview. Tourists quickly began to follow suit using the hashtag also. In a city that’s more known for its awe-inspiring buildings and less for its people, adding that human touch to the marketing campaign made all the difference. And today, Dubai Tourism continues to sustain the project.

“Businesses must find ways to reconnect with consumers…but in a way that enables those consumers to actually feel connected to the business on a more human level than was previously ever required,” Jess Marranco writes in this HubSpot blog.

Marranco notes that businesses which were once considered power-figures in the Industrial Era, need to adjust in today’s Human Era, where businesses should be considered peers amongst their audiences. According to this 2013 “Welcome to the Human Era” report, some common characteristics amongst Human Era companies are that:

  • They have a deep cultural trait of customer empathy.
  • They talk and act like people.
  • They are open, real, and even flawed.
  • They aren’t boring.
  • They care intensely about the little things.
  • They empower individuals to be the brand.

This last point is what the Dubai marketing campaign did particularly well. And it also played a large role in last summer’s viral ice bucket challenge (which led to 24 million tagged video posts) which helped to raised millions of dollars for the ALS Association. With more businesses taking note of the power of human marketing, it will be interesting to see what new campaigns will bring forth this year.