We live in a crazy busy world, overwhelmed every day with pieces of information coming from many sources. We are all online almost 24/7, checking our social media profiles or posting selfies. Computers, mobile phones, tablets — it doesn’t matter the device, we want to be able to have access to whatever we want anywhere, at any time.
We always seem to be in a rush, sometimes not even aware of where we are running to so fast. We are in an era where individuality is apparently playing a leading role in the theater of experiences. Everybody wants to get noticed, fast, and reach as many followers and likes as possible in the quickest way. Now, a big question arises: Given this context, are human relationships still relevant?
I believe human relationships are now more important than ever, including when it comes to marketing and communication. The fact that today’s consumers are focused on their individuality, and bombarded every second with different pieces of information, also means they are becoming more and more sophisticated. They want to use the best product/service available to make their lives better or easier.
Therefore, brands can’t make people want things anymore; they actually must focus on making things people want. This is also a fundamental pillar of design thinking, which, according to IDEO CEO Tim Brown, is defined as: “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
That said, design thinking shows how important the concept of “human centricity” is in terms of innovation. And yes, it is a very important element not only when we talk about new products or services, but also when we develop new communication approaches. This is why I like to apply the metaphor of human life to brands, considering each brand as a person. This may sound a little crazy, but let me explain:
• Birth: Human beings begin life through birth. Just as people are born, when a brand wants to launch its name on the market, it is important to “give it birth” through branding activities.
• Speak: After birth, parents teach children how to speak. In the same way, once a brand has been created and has its own identity on the market, we need to give it a voice through communication, allowing it to develop its voice, tone and narratives in order to tell and share its story.
• Engage: Once a child knows how to speak, parents focus on supporting him in building relationships with other human beings: the kids at school, siblings, relatives, teachers, etc. In the same way, once a brand has started communicating on the market, it is extremely important that it learns how to interact with its customers and engage in conversations that are relevant to them.
In my opinion, this points to two very important aspects that every agency should be aware of:
• Brands can be treated as people, with the same love, dedication and care that we use to grow our children.
• It doesn’t matter what channels you are using for the brand you are working with; communication always happens between people — the customers and the people who are part of the brand’s team.
In a more practical approach, how can we translate this into value that agencies can bring to the table?
First of all, clarify with the brand what business problems they are trying to solve and what needs they want to satisfy. When this becomes clear, your agency will have the elements to start your investigation on the market. You can now begin to understand if the problems the brand perceives as important are real pain points in the user experience and define what factors can be relevant for your communication strategy.
During this phase, it is also important to dedicate time and energy to clearly define who the target consumers are, which channels they use and how they communicate. It is then fundamental to go out there and talk to people. Try to understand them, how their lives are and what issues they face daily. All of these are important pieces of the puzzle, for the brand and for the agency. This helps the brand better understand their customers and gives the agency the elements to build a stronger brand position and start communicating in a more effective way.
Once you talk to the consumers, it is fundamental to keep listening to them by checking what conversations they engage with and how they usually engage with other brands. Strategically, it is here where we can identify interesting storytelling angles and define how to play with a more appropriate tone of voice.
Now you’ll be ready to develop creative concepts and test different storytelling approaches, executing them consistently through the channels where you can engage with the target consumers.
I believe that all these insights are fundamental to building a strategy that can really relate to people. It also creates a positive and lasting relationship between them and the brand.
Now that we know that human relationships are still very important and that brands can be treated as human beings, I would like to conclude by saying that, thanks to this awareness, I believe the modern agency should always train the following skills internally:
• Empathy: Empathy is an extremely important quality that helps us understand the target audiences we want to engage with. It also helps build and nurture internal teams. Empathy can help us make better decisions, define better strategies and communicate more clearly.
• Creativity: In today’s world, the work of each agency should always focus on creativity. Creative thinking can add value not only in terms of differentiating a brand from its competitors but also to support its growth and development in terms of innovation.
There is no substitute for the value of conversations between human beings, no matter what platform is used. So, even though life can be incredibly busy, use creativity and empathy in any kind of communication process you design. And focus on a human-centered approach from both perspectives: internally with your team, and externally, to connect your clients with their customers and make them understand and respect each other’s needs and points of views.