Humanizing Marketing

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March 27, 2014

There is something intrinsically appealing about truly connecting with your audience. In the world of marketing, that means being honest about your intentions, presenting clear and transparent information to your potential customers, and not selling. Not selling is an important part. When we are “not selling,” we are “listening." The more you listen, the better your response. Active listening creates a two-sided conversation rather than a pitch. Eventually you begin to understand the customer, and you truly connect. That connection is based more on how we share information rather than the information itself. This is the main idea behind the 'More Human' video that Hubspot shared last year.

Of course, Hubspot is not the only one to touch on the idea of being ‘more human’ in your marketing and in your companies. Some of my favorite books and authors have also shared similar ideas: Kim and Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy; Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup; Seth Godin’s Linchpin; and Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers. These are my favorites because they share ideas of the newer generation of tech-savvy business people in a global economy. They understand that the Internet has changed the world of business. In Blue Ocean Strategy, Mauborgne talks about how to create value in industries that are highly competitive. Ries takes after the Agile Software Development movement and writes about creating a company that is constantly learning and rapidly changing course (pivots) based on customer feedback and new information; essentially tailoring his company to service a real customer need (Watch his lecture at Stanford here). Seth Godin recommends we ditch the ‘turn-key’ business model and replace it with passionate and empowered employees that help the company stay competitive through rapid change and constant improvement. Watch his keynote at last year’s Hubspot conference here.

In my opinion, all of these authors are saying the same thing: let’s start thinking about business differently; let’s make products and services that we are proud to put our names on; and let’s treat our customers and clients fairly. Let’s challenge our employees to do their best, and we’ll do the same. By the way, treating our customers fairly is not to be confused with lowering our price and therefore our margins. In fact, it means the exact opposite. It means that we generate so much value (like Apple) that it will be fair to pay a higher price for a much better service or product. Most will agree with me that it’s better to join or buy from a company with those values.

We have also seen good examples of advertising that humanize abstract ideas and the companies they represent. Some good examples are the Dove Real Beauty Sketches (Idea: love yourself and look at yourself in better light), the Van Damme Volvo Commercial (Idea: strength, power, precision), and The Force: Volkswagen commercial (Idea: the kid in all of us). Notice that they are big companies with very expensive ads, some of which were part of last year’s Super Bowl ad lineup. Although they paid millions to make the ads, they didn’t sell. They engaged and connected with their audience at an emotional level. It paid off. Each one of these videos has been seen at least 49 million times. Connecting emotionally isn’t limited to big advertising budgets either. A video made on a shoestring budget (a little more than $1,000) about 20 strangers kissing for the first time reached 63 million views. You can read the New York Times article about it here.

Most of us aren’t going to do that type of advertising. It’s a shotgun approach, and we need a heavily targeted and tailored approach to reach our audience. That’s a topic for my next blog post.

Just remember, like the ‘More Human’ video said “people don’t remember the pitch, they remember the experience.”