Human Marketing: Innovations We Love

Humans. They’re everywhere you look!

We’ve been fans of the Humans of New York phenomenon for a while now. With a camera and simple stories, Brandon Stanton has been able to tap the power of global communities, along with the Internet and social media to create a New York Times best selling book, nearly 10 million followers on Facebook, and many copycats and satires seeking to ride its coattails.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 1.07.00 PM

We’re drawn to the authenticity, simplicity and lack of pretense that Humans of New York offers. It showcases humanity, reminding us that we are all connected and similar, experiencing triumphs and defeats, challenges and opportunities in our lives.

Humans are definitely back in vogue. And as such, they are getting a bigger piece of the marketing pie. Look no further than the recent campaigns of Coca-Cola and Beats by Dre to see human marketing in its full form. Coke’s campaign is all about celebrating relationships. It’s not about consuming a soda, but sharing a moment with Jenny, Mike, a Star, a Friend – whatever name you are lucky enough to find on your can. Not only was this a brilliant, people-inspired campaign, it also sent consumers out in droves to search for cans with their desired name on it.

The Beats by Dre campaign appealed to the human spirit of various athletes in major sporting competitions – from tennis, to football, to the World Cup.  The campaign was not about headphones, it was about the athletes’ stories. The music of their life set the tone for a heart-tugging commercial. The headphones were simply a vehicle.

You may be thinking that sure, it’s easy for consumer companies to appeal to humans, but if you search across the websites and campaigns of major tech companies, including OracleIBM’s People 4 Smarter Cities and GE, what you will find is humans. Humans using technology to make their job, their industry and the world at large better.

So what are the implications of human marketing for the technology sector and how its stories are told?  Here are three takeaways:

  1. It’s all about the customer experience. Customer experience may be a buzzword, but we don’t expect it to fade into the well-worn woodwork of tech trends anytime soon. The customer, potential customers and basically every constituency a company interacts with has the power to voice their experience via social media and make headline news.  Look no further than one bad Comcast call to see this scenario in action.
  2. Stories need characters, not speeds and feeds. Marketers have spent years telling you how they are bigger, badder, faster. They need to stop thinking about themselves and put themselves in the shoes of their customer. Customers today need to feel that vendors understand them and their unique needs. There is always going to be some shiny new technology knocking at your customer’s door – one that tries to lure them away from you with the promise of something better. But empathy and understanding of your customer delivers lasting competitive advantage.
  3. Simplicity is key. Remember when you used to open a website and you could not make heads or tails of what the company actually did? It was a game of “he who uses the fanciest language and most buzzwords wins.” But no longer. Humans need language they understand – they need you to talk to them like, well, humans. Content needs to cut through the clutter and deliver simple, compelling messages that are easy to grasp and understand in seconds.

Humans may not be innovative or cutting edge – they’ve actually been around for quite a while.  And while they may have fallen into the trough of disillusionment for a while when it came to marketing, we for one are glad to see them back. For starters, one simple fact remains true. Companies need people to buy stuff.  So why not appeal to them as people. After all, being human is the one common factor we all have.

This blog post continues our series on PR innovations we love that kicked off last week. Co-written by B&O VP Kris Reeves.