Digital marketing pros love knowing what works and have a seemingly endless number of analytics tools and an ocean of data to tell us exactly that. Amid that desire to pinpoint what leads to conversion, we’re losing touch with the one thing that can set a brand apart: humanity.
That’s right, humanity. Not clicks, downloads or page views. People are not merely users or target audience members; they’re people. People are emotional, and emotion influences what they buy even when they’re buying on behalf of a company.
Data does an amazing job tracking the customer behavior behind a conversion, but how connected that customer feels toward the brand is tougher to gauge. But it’s just as critical. Failing to form a positive human connection, however intangible, means failing to stand out amid an endless stream of unremarkable information.
Creativity sets your brand apart — in the eyes of actual humans. In terms of digital marketing, that often calls for interactive content, which elicits delight as you build trust. What’s more human than an involuntary smile, especially if it comes from a surprisingly creative piece of marketing content?
Data Is Key, But It’s Not Everything.
We have shifted to relying so heavily on data to drive digital marketing that we’ve neglected the power and potential of creativity. That’s probably because its effects, and the human emotions it evokes, are impossible to quantify. But if you only value what is measurable, where does that leave creativity and the positivity it fosters?
Shirley Macbeth, Chief Marketing Officer of Forrester Research, recently told Renegade Thinkers Live that the number of touchpoints in the typical buyer’s journey has grown from 17 in 2019 to 27. Twenty-seven touchpoints! Whether you want to measure last interaction attribution, first interaction attribution or any other attribution, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that it took 27 touchpoints to inch your buyer into action.
Clearly, we’re not doing something right. Maybe we marketers are so busy counting, we’re not connecting. We’ve placed quantity over quality. Despite whatever clicks, shares or other metrics may suggest, people are not engaged. To break through that onslaught of mundane, mediocre messaging is an emotional connection to our buyer. We need to hook their hearts and minds by humanizing our brand with creativity.
The Marketing Wild Card Metric: The Human Experience
Tracking the buyer’s journey is imperfect because data is imperfect in tracking actual human buying patterns, both online and off. Buying patterns can be erratic and unpredictable. Human behavior is the wild card in tracking metrics.
Too often brands put the product or service as the center of attention rather than on how their brand can better their customer’s human experience.
Marketers need to re-balance the data-driven side (i.e., everything we can track) with the creative effort to create a brand identity and experience caters toward actual humans. We have to do both. We have to educate our CEOs and CFOs that the value of some things cannot be measured.
This isn’t to say you’re flying blind. Your company will have audience research, demographic research and other data to help guide your intuition. You need to know your customer. What motivates them, what inspires them, whathat will make them smile, etc.
Digital marketing isn’t just about the product. It’s about showing buyers a better version of themselves: a better business leader, a better department head, a better <insert role> as a result of investing in your brand. Too often brands put the product or service as the center of attention rather than on how their brand can better their customer’s human experience.
Consider a recent digital marketing effort by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, which is B2C but a good illustrator of tapping into the human experience. The words and imagery are not focusing on rooms and amenities per se but rather on the relaxation and sunshine you want to experience on a summer vacation. The campaign is eliciting an emotional response. It might have been the first touchpoint, the 17th or the last, but clearly it was influential.
Express humanity through creativity. Embrace good storytelling and worry less about where the direct attribution lies. Let your marketing intuition breathe again.
Show The Human Side of Your Brand
The aim is to strike an emotional chord, and trust is among the most positive emotional chords we can strike. Central to humanizing the experience is bringing that out in your company, too. You want to help your prospective customers see that what’s behind the product and behind the company are people like themselves, people who put thought and consideration into how other humans would experience their brand.
Trust is among the most positive emotional chords we can strike.
Let customers know your company has a heart. Let them know you have their backs. Be relational not transactional. Companies have a choice of who they might buy from and who they might do business with. Does your company reflect a sense of community?
Another key to establishing trust is to simply be vulnerable. Be creative and take risks with your marketing. Peel back the layers so your authenticity as people can come through.
This is no easy task. In being vulnerable, you have to get rid of the fear: fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of alienating people. If you can remove that fear and just accept the fact it will happen, your company’s authenticity shows up, and then you become much more credible. The impression works in a more positive direction. When you become more credible, you build more trust.
What you’re striving for is to show the human side of your brand — how your brand helps people, whether in the products or services you offer or the role in the community your company plays. Let creativity reflect your humanity.
About the Author
Jamie Gier for more than 25 years has been working with leading technology companies that are driving positive social impact to improve the way we learn, work and live. She has extensive experience scaling and growing businesses by creating impactful brands, designing revenue-generating go-to-market strategies, and leading high-performing teams across product marketing, corporate communications, public relations, digital marketing and demand creation. Prior to joining Ceros, Jamie held executive-level marketing positions at DreamBox Learning, SCI Solutions (now R1), Microsoft and GE Healthcare and was involved in a number of industry mergers and acquisitions.