As someone intrigued by human beings since childhood, I always knew that to trully create something for human beings we need to first understand their peculiar behaviours; often very irrational and illogical.
The more I learned about how we are designed as human beings and especially how our mind works, the surer I was that the human-centric approach should always be the starting point for creating anything and everything.
Now, there are many definitions of human-centric approach but within the last few years working with consumer brands, I have come to create my own view of what this approach should encompass. Here I present its key elements:
- All humans not just customers
Human beings play many social roles every day. They are woman/man/other gender identity, parent, friend, child to someone, professional and the least customer. Just becasue they are participating in a transaction with a brand, they don’t put aside all their other social roles. In fact, they are heavily influencing their behaviours and decisions in this transaction.
Now, direct customers that currently transact with your brand are not the only human beings your brand is affecting. We obviously have brand employees whose lives are strongly impacted by the brand they work for (brand values, personality, employee experience). They often are the best brand ambassadors, whether they realise it or not. What your friend tells you about how it is to work for a certain brand is going to influence how you perceive that brand as a customer.
Your brand will also impact on people’s lives whether they buy your products/services or not. Their friends or family members might be using your brand, they can pass by your store on their way to work and they are exposed to your advertising. The best example are brands that create social movement and challenge stereotypes, e.g. Dove. Their self-esteem boosting campaigns impact on all women and many men but only some will buy their products.
You might say that it is not important to think about those that aren’t your direct customers but you never know if they won’t become one or won’t recommend your brand to a friend as they are better fit to your brand personality and values.
Introducing ‘Degrees of Impact’ into your design and communication strategies is key. The main focus is always on your core customer profiles (within them you can also establish hierarchy). Then you decide how much effort and resources you want to expense on future customers, introducers and the rest of the human species.
- Foundations of Human Design
As much as human beings might appear complicated, there are certain basic rules of how our mind operates and what does it mean for our consumer behaviour.
I always encourage my clients to first address these foundations and then look at other aspects of brand strategy and customer experience strategy as well as design. The best metaphor is building a house – you don’t start from painting the walls and hanging pictures but rather from building foundations so the building is stable and its future is secured. Same goes for the whole brand and customer experience strategy.
You first need to know what your brand stands for (brand personality, values, purpose), then what need you fulfil in people’s lives with your product or service (taking Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as the theoretical underpinning), then you ensure that you truly understand your customer (not just demographics but proper psychographics too).
I know it seems obvious and I am sure you think you are doing it and well. I have seen many brand books and customer profiles and they are often at least insufficient and sometimes outdated or non-existent.
These 3 major strategic exercises are like creating your ‘Brand Compass’ that helps you to make agile business and creative decisions. The information in them allows you also to properly personalise your design and communication to create a truly unique customer experience that leads to amazing consumer-brand relationships and very strong customer loyalty.
On top of these strategic foundations you also need to consider fundamentals of how human mind works – subconsciousness, sensory perception, emotions and many other more complex psychological processes. They become your tools of delivering your ‘Brand Compass’ so that every person, even if they are different, understands and connects with your brand in a similar way, the way you want them to perceive you and behave towards you.
- Brands are Human Too
Numerous scientific studies have proven that we perceive brands as human beings. In fact, even a neuroscientific study published in 2015 shows that we build the same mental models of brands as of humans – they consist of the same information and are stored in and retrieved from the same areas in the brain. We therefore naturally assign brands human-like characteristics and form human-like relationships with them. We expect brands to behave like human beings – same rules are governing these interactions.
However, the standard way of approaching brand and customer experience strategy is that the brand is an inanimate corporate entity rather than your friend you can turn to when you’re stressed.
Brand personality, consumer-brand relationships, brand attachment, customer engagement and brand loyalty are just some of the concepts widely studied in scientific community but not well understood and therefore applied amongst practitioners.
If we assign human-like characteristics to the brand, it needs to look, talk, behave, smell, feel and move like that ‘person’. The same way we expect consistency in people’s behaviours across different environments, circumstances and times, the same consumer minds expect brands to ‘BE’ the same across all channels, designs and communications. Brand is a live Being not an abstract concept.
Your ‘Brand Compass’ is again something that helps you to be consistent across channels, markets and times. It informs design, tone of voice, customer service, advertising and marketing; it should even impact on your corporate responsibility, operations and employee experience.
If you’d like to be a HUMAN BRAND or you simply like what you are reading, contact us to take you on the journey to being more of a human brand or explore our website to find out more.