When we receive a new business enquiry, my first move is to reach for the phone or meet with the potential client as soon as possible, not only to discover more about their intentions for inquiring and gathering more information, but more importantly to humanise the communication. Humanising your brand remains increasingly important – especially in today’s marketplace.
Any future relationship is going to be between people, not trading names of businesses. Most people prefer to do business with people that they trust – not just because you have a beautiful, shiny brand backing you. Interestingly, initial questioning focuses on “how long has your agency been in business?”, “who would be the prime contacts?”, “what is your approach?” and so on. Each are elements that aim towards building an overall trust between a potential client and our business.
If we want to win business of any level, we need to cultivate the trust of our customers or clients. We need to show a brand image that is human, one that is aspirational, but most importantly, relatable. Being customer focused is not a new concept in the least – but the focus and effort we put around developing branding that is approachable, relevant and relatable can provide real differentiation.
To begin humanising your brand we suggest consideration of the following phases to branding:
1. Vision, values and purpose
For the most part, research has suggested that nearly all consumers want an advertisement experience from a brand to feel like a story – they want to get to know the people, the values and the message behind the brand. This story can help maintain transparency, whilst clearly stating your brand’s values and vision.
Communication is key. Rather than trying to automate your brand at every touch point, research shows that a human presence creates value in a brand that customers positively respond to.
Values are an important part of the brand foundation that set the emotional, moral and ethical compass for an organisation. With consumers being free to engage with whom they see fit and often find very little inconvenience in switching brands, the alignment of values has become extremely relevant. Additionally, transparency of value sets is now an expectation no matter the environment.
To build relationships with all stakeholders – both internal and external – start by clearly communicating your brand’s philosophy or higher purpose and live your values.
Many brands convey purpose very well, such as Heathrow Airport’s commitment to the Heathrow 2.0 sustainability model, or The Hollies’ care home commitment of providing a family value-based approach at every touch point.
A bold purpose or genuine commitment provides reality to consumers, leading to credible shared values and a lasting relationship.
This relationship will need to be managed and sensitively aligned to what each consumer desires – loyalty, respect or reliability. Additionally, on an individual basis brands need to flex to meet customers’ needs. It is important to note that not all consumers will want to be considered or treated as loyal in the same way, rather, they may place more importance on being able to rely on or respect a brand at certain times.
2. Customer profiles
The surest way to start humanising your brand is by understanding who your customers are and what they value. Naturally if you wish to communicate with people, then you need to know a little about them in order to be relevant in your communication. This might seem obvious, but customer profiling is very often a step left out.
Brand management is the process of making your image, product and service appealing and relevant to your target audience.
3. Visual identity
A name and visual identity provide the look and feel of the brand. Design elements, colours, fonts, imagery and tone of voice enable the brand values and personality to shine. A well-crafted visual identity will identify the brand and differentiate it, whilst engaging and cultivating the relationships between customers, staff, partners, investors and other stakeholder groups.
Allowing customers to understand the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanise your brand. Your logo, as well as all the other visual elements, will all provide an insight into the human make up of the brand.
4. Brand experience – product, service and communication
A brand experience is the sum of all touch points. For some brands, the number of touch points can be minimal, others such as airlines and hotels will be extensive. The challenge is delivering a human-like interaction that consistently reflects the brand personality at all touch points…at all times.
It is not the number of interactions a customer has with your brand, but the quality and relatability of each interaction based on shared values that will build brand loyalty.
The process of developing standards and guidelines for service, product and visual identity will enable you to consistently apply your brand personality and act from the same (brand) play book. By delivering consistency, you can reinforce an understood and recognised brand personality at every touch point.
People respond to people – it is as simple as that. Taking out some of the automated tactics can allow you to focus on keeping customer interest, portraying a relatable brand image, and most importantly humanising your brand.
At IM London, we love branding. We pride ourselves on being experts in maximising our clients’ brand value with strategic execution and considered creative solutions.