Updated on February 10, 2020.
In brand marketing, consumers often complain about a sense of disconnect between a big company and real people. Many sales and customer service brands have been automated for years and others are rapidly moving in that direction. It makes sense, of course, that the cost of maintaining a working website is less than the cost of paying employees to do the same work. Many brands hide behind their size and their ability to deliver a product on time and for a good price. Over time, customers notice the lack of personality, and eventually, it can have a tremendous impact on a brand.
Intentional Social Media Strategy
One highly effective way to humanize a brand is through social media. Many companies seem to set up Facebook or Twitter accounts because it’s simply “what companies do” and people need to see the brand’s name everywhere. In 2014, “74.5 percent of SMBs [Small and Medium Sized Businesses] reported using social media to promote their businesses—more than any other category of media,” according to a study published by BIA Kelsey.
But social media shouldn’t just serve as a compulsory presence; it’s a powerful way to connect directly with consumers and fans of the brand. “Many people join social channels because they want to be entertained. They don’t want to listen to business-speak and industry jargon while browsing their Facebook news feed,” according to Ishita Ganguly of Social Media Examiner.
Business parlance should be saved for an informational website. Instead, use humor and actual conversations on social media to connect with people who use your products. A great example is the way Oreo connects on social media. There is a clear connection between the people in charge of the accounts and the people who follow them.
13,000 likes and 6,000 shares. Not too shabby for such a short video.
Clever marketing platforms on social media are effective but they aren’t fooling anyone. They can sell products, but over time, people will get tired of being constantly subjected to brand marketing if they just logged into Instagram to see their friend’s vacation in Italy.
Businesses should be using social media as a way to build a community, growing a loyal follower base that enjoys consistent engagement. “People join social communities because they have a purpose, an intent and communities let them act on their intent,” according to Meghan M. Biro in The Huffington Post. “They are looking for a place to be (Facebook), a place to learn (Google+, Pinterest), a place to interact (Twitter).” Used effectively, social media means customers can trust that when they reach out, they’ll connect with a human being. In turn, the companies are showing that they can connect with a consumer base on their turf. That’s not a marketing gimmick. It’s a unique opportunity that companies didn’t have twenty years ago.
Branded Video Content
Producing brand videos are a great way to extend a company’s social media reach. These can be commercials, but they should connect viewers to the company on a human level, and shouldn’t just serve to explain how much you need a product. “Video provides an opportunity to show faces of your company, so if you feel that will work toward the goal of, for example, a customer having a good experience learning about your product, then you should absolutely use video there,” says Elise Ramsay of Wistia in an interview with Stream Creative.
A successful example of this strategy is Dollar Shave Club, whose CEO and co-creator of the company is constantly featured in viral video and TV spots. Their “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” video posted on YouTube in 2012 has over 20 million views to date, and their TV ads have reached a huge audience online as well.
In addition to their effective use of humor, the ads attach a face to the product. People who watch the videos will be able to picture the friendly, funny person behind the brand every time they hear it mentioned.
Video lends a tangibility to a company that a simple brochure does not. “If you want to accurately inform your customers of your company’s unique abilities, be ready to up your storytelling strategy. Through video marketing, you can add a realness to your brand,” says Viosik.com. A video could illustrate a brand’s humble history, like this Burt’s Bees video:
It doesn’t fit the traditional mold of an advertisement, though it does feature the actual product. It spends more time helping the viewer connect with the people who were there from the start. It’s a clever way of connecting to a consumer on several levels. Because the video is well-produced and driven by an engaging narrative, it allows the audience to forget that they are ultimately being sold a product. A customer won’t feel exploited if the experience of connecting to a company feels authentic.
A company’s video doesn’t have to be selling anything. Leave it to video hosting company Wistia to create an engaging video asking their users to fill out a survey.
Based solely on the comments below the video, it’s obvious that their users engaged exactly the way Wistia hoped. They were excited about the video and were more than happy to fill out the survey after having seen it. On top of that success, the video helped to show the actual employees of the company in a personable light. Like the Dollar Shave Club videos, this now gives a face, or faces, to the brand, which transforms it from a website to a sociable organization.
Humanizing your company should be somewhere towards the top of the to-do list if you want to maintain a regular customer base. All things being equal, a customer will probably buy the razor from a friendly CEO rather than one they’ve never seen, and then they’ll come back when they need another. Sometimes, even if the product is slightly worse, people will still gravitate towards the person they “like.” Advertising Age supports Dollar Shave Club’s claim that it has become the number two provider of razors by volume after existing for only three years, and attributes much of that success to their TV ads. The humor has helped them go viral, but the personal touch has helped make them a real competitor against companies that have been around for decades.