Humanizing Digital Brand Perception

[ 0 ] October 9, 2012 |

There’s a lot of noise out there, struggling for your attention. Companies compete on a number of measures like quality, price, selection and similar. It’s more mandatory than strategic to try and compete with this approach, but you aren’t limited to one option either, leaving one strategy worth exploring wide open.

Developing a bond with customers, like any relationship, is tied to trust. It can be difficult to create emotional connections in some markets, but isn’t to say it can’t be done. Sometimes it isn’t just what’s said, but the actions a company takes that speak to their character.

Customers of Tom’s shoes are brand advocates, supporting the commitment of the company’s program to provide a child in need a pair of shoes for every pair that’s sold. Starbucks’ approach to ethical sourcing of coffee are values some of their customers can get behind. And then there’s Zappos, which earned its relationship by focussing on what they call fanatical customer service that made people feel as if the brand cared for them as individuals.

Consistent cues that consumers identify with that are aligned with personal beliefs and values suggest purpose, can create strong impressions, and act as a narrative towards building brand equity. You can’t manufacture authenticity, doing so will be transparent as ambiguity isn’t well received.

An interesting thought in the book ‘Fierce Conversations’ mentions;

“Our lives succeed or fail gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, a marriage, or a life, any single conversation can. The conversation is the relationship.”

This can ring true to an online presence and how we engage, from social media to the tone of the copy on a website, why are so many afraid to be human? While most would be more than content with creating a sizeable amount of advocates, few are capable of entering an intimate relation with consumers. If you compared the relationship of brands with that between humans, its sort of a one-sided affair. Those that go the extra mile can receive admiration and respect.

Social media is an important tool to engaging in conversations, but its only part of the picture. It does have the distinct advantage of being a voice that can display personality and engage with consumers, which has proven to fuel a fan base, but humanizing a digital brand often requires the creation of an emotional connection.

Like any relationship, things don’t happen overnight. There’s a number of steps that can be taken to initiate humanization of your brand. While each might seem insignificant, many small gestures can make the difference.

Start by taking a look at the About page of your website. Does it read like your typical corporate rhetoric offering vision and mission statements? People instinctively gravitate towards this page, probably because deep down we all want to believe that somewhere beyond the pixels on their screen, there sits a human being. If you keep it light-hearted yet professional and interesting you can lose the impression of a faceless corporation. Including staff photos, not just headshots but activities of employees is not only good for your customers, it can also influence top talent to have interest in joining an organization by showing culture, socializing, and how cool it would be to work there and join a great team.

David Aaker, a well known marketing professor at Berkeley has suggested that brand personality as “a set of human characteristics associated with a brand” and imagery beyond identity can help establish in the minds of the consumers the desired traits that create its unique personality.

As brands continue to evolve within the digital space, efforts toward humanizing its presence is an approach marketers are using online more often. It’s hard to be noticed, but doing something different that your customers value has its rewards.

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Category: Branding, Business

About the Author ()

Mark Nicholson works with companies to create inbound marketing and digital strategy.

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