Human Centric Marketing

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Why Should Your Marketing Strategy Be Human-centric

We understand—your brand means the world to you. The problem is, it doesn’t to your consumer.

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.

What is human-centric marketing?

Human-centric marketing is more than just saying you prioritize user experience or customer experience. It’s more than even tailoring your product, website, and services to that optimal customer experience. It begins even earlier, in considering your mission and ideal audience. Human-centric brand strategy needs to be human-centric from the start in order to be effective.

Those humans your brand interacts with exist within an ecosystem of values, cultural norms, and the surrounding marketplace. Brands do not pinpoint and target individuals from outside of that larger context, but rather must consider how they are filtered through those layers of existence. It takes work to realize how your brand works within that larger world from an individual—rather than brand—point of view.

One key benefit of human-centric marketing is that this focus on the human inherently will incorporate such human traits as empathy, self-confidence, and other motivating values in your brand’s marketing strategy—this will make your brand more human. Human-centric marketing will demonstrate you’re a brand with a purpose, but not simply your own. Your purpose will be derived from what defines and drives your customers.

Let’s talk more about why this is so important, and how to make it happen.

How to develop your brand’s human-centric marketing strategy

Take time to talk with consumers, but not just about your brand. Develop research methods that ask about their lives. Sure, incorporate inquiry about your brand’s role there, but make it secondary. This could take many forms, from surveys to interviews to just standing back and watching your brand work in the world, paying attention to the many other priorities people bring to their time with whatever it is you do and the ultimate problem your brand can help solve. Center the human in how you see your brand being experienced.

Combine what you hear from that listening with what you know about the external forces at work. You know your market and its regulatory, industry level—recognize what your consumers aren’t even aware of that impacts access to your brand. For culture, think critically about who experiences your brand, and how they differ. Are you hearing different things from different people about your brand when you listen? Think about why that is, and how it changes your brand’s role in different humans’ worlds.

Use this human-centric approach to refine your target audiences. Some will inherently more readily see and hear—and positively respond to—the messaging your brand puts out into the wider ecosystem. Determine who it’s reaching most effectively.

Put that listening and learning to work—don’t do research without acting on it, both because it will serve your brand experience and ultimate business strategy, but also because changing your brand’s marketing and communication based on those efforts will demonstrate to your audience you’ve listened to them, learned from them, and center them.

Keep re-centering your human-centric marketing

Once your brand has put this human-centric marketing strategy in play, come back to it continually. People change, so keep talking, listening, and learning in order to best leverage those human experiences for your brand’s bottom-line success.

Your brand does not exist in isolation. Neither does your consumer. Taking time to research them both as whole, complex entities within a whole, complex ecosystem will enable similarly whole, complex—and ultimately more powerful—brand-human communication and interaction.

Brooke Edge, PhD
  • Consumer and Brand Research
  • Website Builds

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