All of us have a list of our favourite brands — they can be the clothes you wear, the restaurants you frequent, or even the #influencers you gawk at on your Instagram feed (yes, they're a highly-curated brand too).
So, how have these brands earned their special places in our hearts? How do they not just maintain but also reinforce our love and loyalty with each interaction?
Digital marketing has since replaced traditional marketing (billboards, television, print) as the de facto marketing strategy for almost all brands out there. While this may offer an unprecedented level of engagement and interactivity between brands and consumers, most businesses actually end up missing out on the opportunity to do so — big time! That person-to-person connection is achieved through more than just a series of Facebook posts, targeted ads and giveaway contests. So, how do we at AKIN do it?
What matters here is being Human.
Even for traditionally unengaging brands, such as complicated science-y stuff to the branding of entire countries, the biggest successes (in terms of engagement) in recent memory are those that adopted befitting personas. Not only that, but they’ve also invested time and resources to interact with their fans (consumers or otherwise) on a personal level. Gone are the days of mega-behemoths talking about how great they are.
Naturally, consumers’ expectations have also since been raised, and interactions between brand and consumer are quickly becoming (and are expected to be) even more personal and genuine now.
There’s no better or important time than now to embrace being 'human' — but how? Here are 7 quick tips for your brand to start being humanised!
1. Be that crazy stalker friend... who's not too creepy
We’d need to understand our fans, but in ways much deeper than just their age, gender and geographical location. We need to understand their motivations, interests, activities, opinions, preferences, behaviours — basically an idea of who they are and how they are in real life. We need to find out the time they browse the web, the things that makes them laugh, the videos that they’d share on their timeline, and the promotions that would get them all fired up.
The better we understand our consumer, the more natural our interactions will be with them.
When Mike McCready, a social media professional, Instagrammed a picture of the ugly view from his hotel room during his #PSEWEB conference in Vancouver, he did not tag the hotel, nor was he asking for anything in particular. Yet within the next hour, Delta, the hotel in mentioned, reached out to him via Twitter and offered to switch rooms for him.
The takeaway: Listen to the conversations going on about your brand, especially those that do not tag you!
2. Be a good host... and entertain your fans
Consumers these days have little to no reason, or obligation to stay around if there isn’t anything that they fancy. Coupled with shortening attention spans and a thousand and one things grabbing for their attention, we’d want to provide as much value (as opposed to information) as possible during their internet use.
With evolving content types and preferences, videos have been proven to be a great way to keep their attention captive, especially with the exceptional growth seen on platforms such as Facebook (eight billion views a day!) and Instagram. The average user of today is exposed to an average of 32.3 videos in a month, and almost a third of all online activity is spent watching videos. With staggering statistics like that, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be on video yet!
In 2010, liquid paper brand Tipp-Ex launched an interactive, out-of-the-box Youtube campaign that features a video called ‘A hunter shoots a bear’. In the video, the hunter yells “Hey! I don’t wanna shoot this bear!” and reaches out of the screen, grabs a Tipp-Ex Whiteout Pocket Mouse and whites out the word “shoots” from the title. Viewers are then invited to write whatever they want into the whited-out area of the web interface and they will be sent to another video where the hunter does exactly what the user wrote. That's entertainment right there (trust us, we spent lots of time on this video...).
The takeaway: Be entertaining. Don't always talk about yourself.
3. Live in the moment... literally
With the maturation of social media, many have commented that the distance between consumer and brand is as close as it gets. These days, new toys such as Live Videos and VR narrow the gap even further, allowing brands to engage in real-time, up-close engagement. Here's a stat to back that up - people spend three times as long watching Live videos compared to pre-shot ones. Gone are the days of pre-scheduled posts and carefully-etched copy – consumers appreciate a brand genuine in wanting to engage its consumers.
Also, brands do not operate in a silo. Current events, local or global, have ripples on your brand no matter how far away they may seem. Acknowledging these events help your consumers make sense of that – that they exist in the same realm as you do. This further positions your brand as a fellow human being, one that has its own opinions, and is interested in the same topics as them.
Benefit Cosmetics streams a Live Video on Facebook each Thursday where they run a show called "Tipsy Tricks with Benefit!". There will be a fresh topic each week, and the hosts would answer their live viewers' questions and dispense advice — all while sitting back and sipping some wine. “It is utility-meets-fun-meets-banter,” said Claudia Allwood, senior director of U.S. digital marketing at Benefit cosmetics. “We have a talk-show vibe, but we’re not talking to you, not at you"
4. Don't be afraid to show your personality... there's nothing to hide
Having a personality is more than just defining the tonality of the copy or the types of visuals you post up. Show your human side by sharing more about your day and embracing emotions such as happiness, excitement and even frustrations.
Social media is full of noise, and it’s only going to get noisier. While most brands might opt for the safer side, adopting a cheery, bubbly personality, the way to stand out from all the chatter is to embrace a full spectrum of emotions. Sulk a little when Mondays arrive, and let your frustrations be felt when Team Singapore doesn’t get a medal. Always remember – you’re human too!
Mr Taco Bell here is definitely the cool, funny guy you'd want to hang out with. Just look at their Twitter conversations!
@OldSpice Is your deodorant made with really old spices?— Taco Bell (@tacobell) July 9, 2012
@RadioMoBounce Only 1 point? We'll try harder next time.— Taco Bell (@tacobell) July 11, 2012
The takeaway: It's not what you say, it's how you say it.
5. Use social media for its intended purpose... not as a bulletin board
Digital platforms are geared for interactions — comment boxes, feeds, personal messages — yet brands often use them as mass publishing tools instead. Users go onto social media for one purpose — to connect with people they know, and not with businesses and brands.
Social media was designed for us to showcase digital personalities, with profile pictures showing how fun we are, and funny cat videos adorning our timelines. But how is your brand using it? Another medium to simply post about your latest promotions three times a week?
If you want to connect to your audience, you have to go out of your way to speak the speak of your target audience. Social media has spawned certain terms that have since become common speech: #ootd, #tbt #bodypos. If you plan to copy-and-paste the copies from your brochures to social media, social media may not be for you.
The takeaway: Monologues on social media will kill your brand.
6. Create conversations... talk about anything under the sun
While conversations about your company and industry are important, your brand shouldn’t just be about me, myself and I 24/7. Just as you would talk the latest news, TV shows, or last night’s game at your office watercooler, you can give nods to relevant and timely references, such as popular culture, to form your own little insider’s circle.
This doesn’t have to be limited between you and your consumers; you can have conversations with other brands too! A little banter can help your brand let loose, create new connections, foster some camaraderie, and own its personality.
By having your brand be itself, you create an environment that puts people at ease. That way, you don’t have to keep sharing about your day to them — they will also be willing to share about theirs to you!
The takeaway: If you can get your audiences to talk to you about themselves, you have found marketing gold.
7. Don't take everything so seriously... let go and just laugh
Humour is programmed into each and every one of us — and it works great as a means to connect people quickly. Laughing together breaks down boundaries, bringing your brand from being a corporation to a regular guy who finds humour in dad jokes.
This applies for you guys in B2B industries too. While jargon-laden copy can get your points across in a concise manner, there’s no way technical babble can get your messages to stick. Find ways to infuse humour into your content once in a while (in good taste of cos!), and do your research to find out what makes your audience laugh (Puns? Witty headlines? Cultural references?). It’ll certainly capture your consumers' attention, get them talking, and make them come back for more
Ever bring your own Oreo cookies to the movie theater? #slicksnacker
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) September 25, 2012
@sleeeping ha! how'd you do that?
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) September 26, 201
The takeaway: Why don’t marketer’s like trampolines? They’re scared of high bounce rates.
How human is your brand?
While these are just some quick tips, there are, of course, deeper ways for your brand to embrace its human side. It’s tough identifying where your brand falls short exactly, especially when you’re in too deep (and trying to keep).
That’s why we’ve come up with this simple questionnaire to help get you figure out your starting point, the destination, and hopefully the route between the two.
Written by Harris Lim
Updated by Hanson Ng (Nov 2019)