By Bryan Kramer | Commentary, Featured, Marketing, Tech

7 Characteristics of a Human Brand

What makes you human?

Welling up when you watch a video of otters holding hands for the 456th time? Feeling your blood pressure rise when someone cuts in front of you in the supermarket queue? Saving that last cupcake for your partner…but failing miserably and scoffing it anyway?

Hey, I know you too well!

We’re all driven by emotion, feelings, gut reactions…whatever you want to label them as. The decisions we make and the interactions we share are all unavoidably human. Firstly because we’re humans (if you don’t then get in touch, I want to hear from you!) and we’re making them, duh. But also because of the wide, rich spectrum of intentions, history, and emotion that are loaded into every single one of our choices, however small.

And this applies to buying products and using services too. As humans, we’re so freakin’ complex and that complexity should be reflected in the way your brand deals with customer interactions too.

Futureproofing your brand is made easier when you concentrate on building and designing customer-focused experiences.

Shake off corporate clap-trap and robotic monotony and humanize your brand with 7 human characteristics:

1. Good Storytellers

How do you encourage and prompt emotion? Well, the best stories have a way of making listeners feel something. They’re a great vehicle for emotion and building storytelling into your marketing strategy is essential.

Create a strong narrative to hook your audience in and take them on a journey *plays cheesy music*. Stories help us to understand and make sense of the world and the same can be said for your brand. Introduce your messaging through immersive storytelling. Here’s an excellent example – LEGO produced a short-story film to give some brand background, detailing the struggles and journey LEGO has been on.

Your narrative and stories should make sense alongside your brand identity. Make sure you’re consistent and incorporate your brand’s values and ethos into stories. Stories are especially effective if you’re a charity or non-profit looking for donations.

Need something to inspire you? Pixar is a master storyteller and their short films are fantastic at tugging on your heartstrings and making your heart feel fuzzy too. They’re always worth watching to get some insight into the elements that make up a short story and ways to build emotion.

2. Tone of Voice

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!” –  now, come on, confess, how many times have you heard this in an argument?

We can learn a lot from this phrase though. Obviously what you say is important, but how you deliver your messages is really worth focusing on.

The tone is almost a magical ingredient. It’s difficult to identify sometimes, but it’s that extra bit of character and personality that sets one brand apart from another.

Finding what works for your brand with some research is essential. You could have a more straight-forward, serious tone or a quirky, goofy tone. And a whole host of other tones in between. It all depends on your product, audience and brand identity.

And your tone should act as an extension of your brand’s identity. The copy you use helps to deliver a message and tell your audience who you are and what you represent. Talking to customers as people, instead of just customers is a good step.

Creating a tone of voice guide for your brand can help to create a consistent TOV for your customer service interactions, across your social channels, and on every platform. If everyone is on board then your customers will begin to associate clear personality traits with your brand.

Take a couple of minutes and look at smoothie maker, Innocent. On every part of their website, on every platform, their TOV shines through – playful, fun and friendly.

3. Honesty is the Best Policy

In an uncertain world, customers are looking for brands they can rely on. They want strong, stable and they’re searching for authenticity. Authenticity is important to 86% of customers and 57% believe that less than half of brands are delivering this.

What’s being authentic? Well, it’s about being accountable, transparent and honest – which can mean owning up to mistakes or sub-standard performance. Look at this great example from KFC in the UK – who recently ran out of chicken! They created an excellent apology advert and were praised on social media.

Your copy doesn’t have to be scintillating if you can deliver good, honest product info and own up when you’ve messed up.

4. Personalization

Personalization means data-driven approaches and you can get to know your customers on a deeper level once you’ve collected and analyzed your data intelligently. Then the fun starts and you can build customer personas and define customer segments.

And like authenticity, customers want personalization – Accenture found 48% of customers expect special treatment for being good or loyal customers. But be careful, they want custom-tailored service and personal recommendations but customers also want to protect their privacy, so be transparent and open about your data collection. If there’s no perceived value, customers will be wary of giving their data away.

Learning about customers comes from analyzing elements like purchase behaviors and preferences, but it’s also useful to think about the ‘human’ nature of ever-changing needs, contexts, and expectations. For example, look beyond a traditional customer journey and see what you can add to take into account the individual nature of a customer and cater to hyper-relevant experiences – without being too creepy though. If you’re a card-maker and someone buys a Happy Birthday card, why not throw in a free balloon or party popper too and add to their experience.

5. Interact with Customers

The perfect way to show the human side of your brand is through your interactions with customers. People can peek behind the curtain at your brand and you can play out your brand identity and tone of voice.

Play around on channels like Instagram and chat with customers and followers who mention and engage with your brand. Ask questions and have fun with trending topics and seasons trends. Reach out instead of waiting for customers to make the first move. Use social listening to offer customer support and intervene too.

Social channels give you a great way to build more meaningful connections. All you need to do is visit any big retailer’s Twitter or Facebook page and you’ll usually find messages and conversations signed off by different employees – giving an identity to the person a customer is chatting to. Your team can be chatty, quirky and funny online. And don’t be afraid to show the employees behind your channels, let them take part in visual content, have fun on your platforms and be spontaneous with customers.

6. Give your Audience a Platform

Your brand is more human when you listen to customers, empathize with them and give them a voice. A great way to do this is through user-generated content on your social channels. 60% of customers think that consumer-created content is the most authentic, so using this as part of your marketing strategy can be really effective.

Highlight social posts and reviews from influencers and top followers, but focus on encouraging organic social posts from friends, family, and peers, as customers find this more credible. You can do this through brilliant customer service, great products, and fantastic design, but try to incentivize social posts by engaging with customers that do so and rewarding them with platform take-overs etc.

7. Be…’something’

One of the best ways to position your brand as human is to become known for a certain personality trait. If customers can distinguish your brand as something then it helps to draw audiences towards you because they relate to your brand’s traits

Your brand could be funny, which can be one of the best ways to communicate messages – don’t force it though, if you weren’t born with the funny bone and it feels unnatural then it’ll probably come across to customers. But laughter is a force of nature and can help you bond with customers. Maybe you’re a generous and kind-hearted brand, especially when it comes to philanthropic work and helping your local community.

Nike is a good example of a motivational brand – urging customers to try something new and give it their all.


There’s a whole load of traits that can make up your brand identity and you need to work on social strategies and marketing campaigns that help people to identify your brand as ‘something’ and human.

What are you waiting for – go out there and show off your brand’s human side. Shake off the shackles of boring, corporate mundanity and give your customers an insight into the life-force that goes into your brand and the traits that make you unique.

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