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Five ways to use humanity to build your brand

Humans are both intelligent and irrational. 

On the outside, we analyze every situation logically. We decide without emotion. We put the B in B2B.

On the inside, we’re still a bit mammal. Hardwired for survival and the search for mates and social connection. Just like we were a thousand years before selfies and Tinder.

Thanks to human evolution and a world of information overload, we still judge brands the way we judge people. Brands with humanity have an inherent advantage.

B2B technology is still just humans solving problems for other humans. And humans are still making the buying decisions.

“Which company has the solution to solve our problem? Do we trust them? What will the hidden costs be? What will the company be like to work with? Will my colleagues think I made the right decision?”

When decisions are complex, we can never really have all the information we need. Our gut makes the call, and our brain makes the case. Or as social psychologist Jonathan Haidt said, “The conscious mind thinks it’s the Oval Office, when in reality it’s the press office.”

More than we’d ever admit or even realize—we make big, high-stakes decisions based on a lot of subtle, hidden signals.

 

So What is a Brand, Anyway?

We know it’s not just a logo. It’s also an expression of the company itself. The way it looks—the colors, images, typefaces. The way it talks—the messages and words it uses. It’s in the culture and every experience. Add all of these sensory inputs, repeat over time, and you get: “This feels right.”

That feeling is reputation. It’s familiarity, safety, and trust.

  • The reason you answer that email and take that meeting.
  • The reason you buy.
  • The reason you risk a little of your own reputation to recommend the company to your friends.
  • The reason you’re willing to risk a lot of your reputation to share your decision with your board.

We know a good brand when we feel it.

Yes—brands drive leads and site visitors and social engagement and sales. But also lots of other things that are harder to measure. 

We know a good brand when we feel it. Even if we can’t always find the right words to explain it, or the single perfect metric to quantify it.

Until the robots make all the decisions for us, we’re still going to rely on our deeply felt, deeply human instincts. 

Five strategies to help humanize your brand

So how can companies bring more human qualities to their brands? Here are five ways:


1. Purpose

Discovering your reason for being

You buy from a company because you believe they can solve a problem. That’s first. 

Customers also want to believe in you. They want to know your product has momentum and a future. To loosely paraphrase Emerson, the market will stand aside for a company that knows where it’s going. 

Customers want to know that making them successful is deep in the DNA of the company. That the company isn’t just in it for the money—it wants to make the world a better place. 

You don’t have to be a nonprofit to make the world better. Every company has a chance to improve the world in their own way. And sometimes that means you make the world better by empowering your customers to do the same. 

We live to solve client problems at New Kind. Really messy ones. We love when a project starts, and the stakeholders rattle off problems that are holding them back: overwhelmed by information, mired in technical details, can’t find the simple message that cuts through the noise. We smile because we’ve been there many times before. And then we get to work. Helping companies reveal their purpose gives us purpose.

 

Key questions we ask

  • Why does your organization exist? 
  • What was the original problem it was created to solve?
  • What guides you through good times and bad?
  • Is your mission widely known and expressed in everything you do?

 

Ways we find answers


2. Story

Sharing your journey and the trials overcome

Story is humanity’s truest, most timeless universal language. It’s also the most persuasive form of communication we have. 

Stories aren’t just novels and movies for entertainment. Stories are vehicles for ideas and culture. 

I’ve taught a workshop on brand storytelling nearly 30 times across the country. For sales teams and community organizations as large as 400. From tech companies to small nonprofits. The principles of storytelling apply everywhere. 

When you package information into a story, you make it more memorable, compelling, and believable. 

The fastest way to turn any message into a story is to simply add humans.

Human (your customer) has a problem to solve. They get stuck. Just when all hope is nearly lost, an answer appears (your company). You guide them. You lead them from one step to the next. The victory is theirs—but you are the mentor. You make them successful. Your hero is now on their way to the next adventure. 

Stories are vehicles for ideas and culture.

Storytelling may seem a bit soft at first. Especially when we’re talking about enterprise technology. But it works: 

When we hear a story, there is a part of our minds that participates in the story itself. We see ourselves as the hero, we picture ourselves taking those same steps. 

If you’re trying to compel your audience to take action, don’t just list features and benefits, tell them a story of someone else who has taken that same action, why, and what the result was.

In the end, your customer will picture themselves taking those same steps, experiencing that same success. Then you help them do it.

 

Key questions we ask

  • Where did you begin on your path as an organization?
  • What events shaped you along the way?
  • What is the future you are trying to create?

 

Ways we find answers


3. Empathy

Relating to the experiences of those you serve

Is there a problem—branding or otherwise—that empathy can’t help solve? 

Technology, products, business models will always change. How the company delivers value always changes. The companies that do the best job of empathizing with their customers will be the ones that continue to evolve their businesses and avoid disruption. 

When you’re creating your messaging, are you speaking to a customer directly? Do you know who they are? The problems the face? What worries them? When you communicate with them, are you anticipating their thoughts? 

The more companies understand the customers they serve, the better they’ll serve them, and the easier they’ll be able to evolve their services into the future.

 

Key questions we ask

  • Are your customers the hero in your story?
  • What job is your hero trying to get done every day? What is the biggest thing that stands in their way? 
  • Do you embrace those challenges as your own?

 

Ways we find answers


4. Personality

Creating a cohesive experience to help you stand apart

Often when people say a message from a company doesn’t seem “on-brand” they’re talking about personality.

Personality is essentially a representation of who you are: How you look. How you speak. How you act. 

If your visual and verbal language is cohesive, over time your customers will become more and more familiar with that personality. It will give your company a voice. 

One of the ways we help companies develop their verbal personality is to help them imagine their company as having a spokesperson. That person could be real or imaginary—as long as everyone can hear that voice in their mind as they write. Does that person use short or long sentences? Do they use plainspoken or intellectual language? Are they funny, serious, sarcastic? 

Large companies hire professional spokespeople because they want that to infuse the brand with a specific person’s traits: The actor in the insurance commercial with the deep voice and calm demeanor that tells you everything is going to be ok. The sarcastic 80s sitcom star who tells you the company is going to be a lot of fun to work with.

We do these explorations with clients, whether they ever hire a spokesperson, because it helps takes brand attributes out of the abstract. It makes personification of their brand real.

 

Key questions we ask

  • Is your visual and verbal identity representing a personality that’s consistent and uniquely your own?
  • Can your audience instantly recognize you?
  • Can everyone in your organization channel your brand as a character?

 

Ways we find answers


5. Authenticity

Staying true to who you are

This one should be easy. Just be real.

You don’t need a Wharton MBA to tell you this. Don’t BS your customers. Don’t trick them. Don’t put your employees in a position where they have to do it either.

Do the right thing often, own up to it when you fall short—and customers will remember and tell other people.

How to be real: 

  • Write your website and email content as though you are one person talking to another.
  • Don’t use stock photography to show your employees. Everyone knows those are not your real employees. Pay a photographer or buy a camera for someone on your creative team. It’s a good investment. 
  • Don’t be afraid to take a stand on a position that’s important to the company.
  • Have real conversations on social media.

Bottom line: Do the right thing often, own up to it when you fall short—and customers will remember and tell other people.

 

Key questions we ask

  • Does your internal culture match your external brand?
  • Do you live your values?
  • Is your company a reflection of those within?

 

Ways we find answers


We specialize in bringing humanity to B2B technology brands. Got a project you’re working on or would like to discuss? Get in touch. We’d love to help.

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