Why does human-centric marketing matter?
To most accurately position and market your brand, remember that your brand is not the most important part of the equation—the individual ultimately encountering your brand is. So decenter yourself and focus instead on that individual. Center the human.
To put it bluntly, a brand-centric view of the world is wrong. This will mislead your marketing, because no one on the receiving end of your messaging centers your brand in their lives. People—even the best of them—are inherently self-centered. Your brand needs to be so too. Not self-centered with your brand in the middle, but centering the person, the individual, the human you’re ultimately serving.
And what are they at the center of? It’s not just immediate wants and needs, but rather a larger world of invisible forces and societal values individuals absorb, push back against, and move within every day. Your brand needs to consider how it reaches people through that larger contextual ecosystem.
Humans make decisions while navigating a complex environment. At the most macro level, there is industry: category dynamics and realities that influence what enters the marketplace (this also includes government and regulatory realities). This may not be accessed or acknowledged by individuals often, but the macro force inherently shapes their consideration set and abilities for action. As an example, take telecommunications: given the industry’s routinely poor reputation for customer experience, widely marketing the benefits of a new service provider would seemingly be well-received and produce remarkable returns. However, a great number of communities and populations will be outside the potential market simply due to legislative and infrastructure regulations and limitations. No matter how great Google Fiber might be, the brand’s selling point is lost on swaths of consumers who cannot gain access.
Industry and individual decision-making factors are in turn influenced by the surrounding culture—notably societal values that influence purchase, activity, and habit options and choices. Individuals are sometimes more cognizant of taking these into account, but often culture operates at the less tangible level of what is and what is not permitted into someone’s relevance set, what is and what is not of interest. This could be something simply existing outside of one’s usual range of habitual thought and action, and a brand needing to realize that barrier to trial. It could also take the form of some demographics or communities being less inclined to (or even aware of), certain messaging nuances and approaches. Seemingly clear language and imagery can be interpreted in very different ways by divergent populations. Decision-making is inherently values-based, and those values used to interpret the surrounding world are far from uniform.
Finally, there is the level too many brands attempt to jump to: the human. This is where effects of the surrounding industry and culture layers come to bear, influencing individual values and choices. Human choice is not the independent lever-pulling activity we like to think it is. Rather, it is continually determined and influenced by the aforementioned industry and cultural forces at work around and on us.
Human beings are continually representing their values, their priorities—their essential selves—to the world around them with every action they take and decision they make. Your brand is part of that self construction, which is in turn affected by everyday forces at work on those decision-makers. It may seem a daunting challenge to reflect all of that in brand marketing, but purposeful listening and learning will enable distillation of what’s most important to the people most important to your brand.
Consider each individual as having concentric circles around them of human needs/desires, cultural values and priorities, market trends, community/government regulations and rules, etc. Your brand doesn’t penetrate someone’s life like an arrow, with a solitary hit from outside, but rather must travel through and be interpreted and incorporated at each level. A brand must study its own journey and interpretation through those industry and culture elements in order to fully understand its consumers’ outlook on and movements within (including purchase decisions) this complex environment. This necessitates going to and prioritizing the source—the consumers themselves.