To “humanize” means “to attribute human qualities to something.” When it comes to brands, this is one piece of the puzzle. What really matters isn’t just how you make your brand feel to others, but also how you leverage it. How are you getting it across to your audience? Is it authentic and nuanced enough to resonate most heavily with that demographic? In the end, you have to make your humanization initiatives work to influence your target market if you want to extend your reach and bolster your marketing efforts.
Here’s how to get a start on humanizing your brand.
Who Are You?
Not to be confused with customer personas, this has more to do with your own brand identity and how others view your brand. It starts with how you see yourselves and how you choose to be true to that character. Naturally, this character should be inspired by what connects with your core audience. (Research, testing, surveys, focus groups—there are many ways to collect information on what your audience is looking for.) But it should also be derived from your brand values and mission.
If your brand were a person, what kind would they be? How would they talk? What are their likes and dislikes? How would you describe them in 5 words? When all is said and done, you should be able to identify a fleshed-out persona for your brand. By developing these traits, you create a sense of relatability for your audience, causing them to feel that your brand is like a person they can connect with. Of course, once you’ve pinpointed the right brand persona, the next step is figuring out how to put it to work.
Real People are in Real Time
Building customer relationships is an obvious need for any brand, and the best way to do it is by leveraging your brand persona in a way that feels authentic, informed, and personal. If you want to humanize your brand, that means being where people are when they are—which can be a challenge with a customer base that’s always connected. Keep an eye on what’s trending. What is your audience talking about? How do they feel about it? Decide how your brand persona feels about it, too. Then engage with your audience. This can’t easily be done through traditional means, so be prepared to have digital marketing solutions at the ready, which can be implemented quickly and have far more flexibility as far as targeting your reach and tailoring your message.
In fact, some of the best marketing happens with little to no time for planning. While much of your social media marketing can (and should) be planned, interacting with your audience in real time is, hands down, the most effective way to get their attention. This is why some of the biggest brands have teams dedicated to watching and reacting on their social media accounts (check out Wendy’s twitter any day of the week and you’ll see what we mean). That doesn’t mean you necessarily have the marketing resources that Wendy’s does, but it does give you some insight into how you can work this attention-grabbing method into your own strategy.
Conversely, this kind of connectedness is also helpful during times when a delicate touch is needed. Knowing what’s going on helps you know what not to say and avoid putting yourself at odds with your audience.
Embrace What Makes us Human
For best results, you can even take it a step further. We’ve established that, as things happen in real time, your brand should be present enough to interact in some way. But, as we know, actions speak louder than words, and there are times when the hard sell isn’t the answer. People are social creatures who take an interest in what’s going on around them. They appreciate brands who act out their company values in a concrete way, such as Miller Lite, who began a fund for “tipping” out of work bartenders during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was compassionate, helpful, and spoke directly to their target market. Marketing like this gives your audience one more reason to support you, which means you shouldn’t always focus on selling a product or service. Wherever your audience is investing themselves, think about how you can invest your brand there, too. Take what you do best and leverage it to be present and take action in a way that will resonate.
What can be even more effective is allowing your audience to feel that they’re making a difference alongside you. Allow them to take a simple action that means a lot. “For each item you buy, we’ll donate to X.” Not only are you taking an active interest, you’re also engaging your real-time audience time in a way that they can’t help but share. They feel good about themselves, and they feel good about supporting your brand.
Humanizing your brand goes far beyond attributing human characteristics. It involves in-depth research to create the perfect persona, and it takes the time and energy to leverage that persona by being invested in your audience and the things that are important to them. It’s a large undertaking, but it becomes increasingly important every day, and it will generate excellent returns in the future—when the time comes for your audience to make a purchasing decision, guess who will be at the top of the list.