The importance of being human
Humanizing brands is a popular topic, but people mean different things when they use this phrase, both in terms of what it means and why you should care.
So what does "humanizing brands" mean?
Brands get created in the customers' minds based on interactions in the marketplace. These interactions could be a good or bad recommendation from a friend or colleague, an experience with the vendor's customer service department, an encounter with one of the company's ads, or an exchange with one of its salespeople.
Thus, "humanizing" a brand simply means to make those customer experiences over which you have control, and which lead to a customer's expectation of value about your brand, more human. Note that the experiences over which you don't have control -- such as word of mouth, through which people help others by recommending products or warning them to stay away -- are already human.
Now, why is it so important to humanize your brand?
The reason is quite simple -- humans relate to other humans much more so than they relate to companies or institutions. Humans have been dealing with humans for tens of thousands of years; most institutions from which we buy products and services have only been around for a few hundred years, at most. So if you can make customer experiences more human, you will connect with the customer on a much more primitive emotional level.
The importance of the human component became visible during the financial crisis a few years back. When banks and financial institutions started failing, putting the economy and most of our retirement nest eggs at risk, people were mad. But it was only when the names of the executives in charge of those institutions became public (and it was revealed how much money those executives were still making while most of us saw our wealth melt away) that the outrage became extreme. People could relate to companies and get angry, but their anger did not become visceral until they could associate human faces with those organizations. We get angry at humans who we consider unfair, and we go out of way to help other humans. We don't really have those same feelings for organizations.
So let's take a look at three ways to humanize your brand in the eyes of customers.