Monday, June 8, 2009

Branded Humanity - Communicating your brand in today’s digital world

I´ve been working on this piece of writing for a while. For some reason I think the interview format works. I really need your input on it.

Where did the concept of Branded Humanity come from?

“I keep a critical eye on Danish corporations or brands and follow them in their use - or lack of – digital media. I prefer the phrase brands. Danish brands are still very old school, traditional, and protective in their digital behavior and appearance. Openness, transparency, collaboration, and total control to users are still empty words not being linked to real action. I won’t go into why this is the case, but I have my prophecies: missing understanding of the dynamics, fear for the unknown and a constant striving for control. On several of my blog journeys, though, I have stumbled upon international examples of brands that communicate in a human way with the consumer. I like it because its personal, unexpected and encourage me to be socially connected with the brand. By default a best-case scenario for brands. Social Media is the main driver behind this shift in communication. When being implemented wisely communication should spread to all possible digital platforms. However, it encouraged me to do this little writing conceptualizing what I think is a very groundbreaking shift in brands conversation with the consumer. My blog is my playground that makes me organize ideas and thoughts: My helper, motivator and notebook also for this conceptualization experiment. Firstly, I started to explore the informal “no rules” language revolution that is taking place (driven by the big ones like Google, Twitter, Facebook), and then I tapped into commercial humanity, which finally led my thoughts to Branded Humanity. I think that clearly explains the phenomenon. Let me explain.”

What is Branded Humanity?

“Branded Humanity is when a brand communicates in a human voice with the consumer. When the tone is human and not corporate. It’s where the brand creates a human relationship to your consumer – a tighter, more personal and trustworthy bond through the use of personal, digital communication. The consumer will feel more confident with the relationship if the brand acts like a peer or a friend. In best case the brand will be your friend. Most people don’t let friends down. Social interaction is equivalent to social capital for the consumer, and brands simply manage to embrace consumers when talking the language of the consumers.

“Humanity used to be linked to supporting a good cause, now it´s about the conversation with the consumer. The conversation at eye-level that positions the brand as human and attentive enabling and supporting the brand in the creation of a lifelong and meaningful relationship with your consumer. Or is a lifelong relationship actually the dream scenario? Will loyalty be a KPI for future brands? This is another discussion.”

“Branded Humanity is in the intersection of social technology, people, and corporate communication. When implemented in a real, trustworthy and honest ways it will help communicating your brand.”

“The focal point of the concept is the conversation in Social Media, and should be transferred to and aligned with the Website, sales channel, corporate blog, discussion forums, etc. In sum your total digital presence.“

Give us some examples.

“The examples are from JetBlue and Innocentdrinks: Daring, unexpected, with a sense of humor and in general very human and personal in the conversation and tone.”

How should brands deal with this?

“Participate, listen and adapt. Don’t set up rules of engagement and don’t pretend to be something you’re not. The consumer is smarter than you. In digital, there is only one rule you need to stick to: No rules. Communicate with a human voice and distant yourself from the old-school rules of communication. A short midway note: This isn’t by default applicable for all brands. It would e.g. be hard to apply and implement for many B2B brands. They may be seen as frivolous in some cases if communicating with a human voice. But again some may also be able to stand out and differentiate by having this more human approach. There are no rules. And back to subject. It’s all about creating relations and exploiting the opportunities and dynamics that exist in social groups (peer-to-peer). Dare to unbrand. Dare to take a risk. In some cases do the unexpected, in others don’t.”

“I drink too much, like junk, bike without light when dark, I forget a birthday once in a while, say stuff I regret, listen to music I´m not proud of. Simply put I have flaws. Everybody has flaws. I expect brands to have flaws, not the same, but something that shows humanity. I have humor and occasionally a more serious side. I expect brands to be funny, charming and serious when it makes sense. And to take a stand on the things that are going on in today’s World. To participate in the conversation immediately: Share, link and comment. It will develop into a stronger bond. We get socially connected and consumers will trust brands more. The big ones can learn from the small ones that are not that hindered by the standard and “how things always should be” - and needs to strive to be just like the small ones. Explore.”

Why is it important for brands to understand the concept of Branded Humanity?

“Social Media will be the standard. A recent study concludes that time spent on social networks surpassed e-mail for the first time in February 2009 signaling a paradigm shift in digital consumer engagement. Personally I experienced this shift recently. Here exemplified with a Twitter update: ”I´m checking my Twitter account before I read the news - an obvious change in my digital priorities”. The consumer spends more time in Social Media than ever before, explaining the importance for brands to join the conversation. Like Benjamin Palmer, CEO, Barbarian Group states: attention is no longer guaranteed.” As a brand you need to earn your attention and therefore you need to at first be present wherever your consumer go. After that you need to act in a real and human way.

“If you communicate in different ways it will be perceived as inconsistent and unreliable. So human behavior limited to e.g. twitter will create confusion and inconsistency, if you have a Website that is extremely corporate in its communication.”

“I read an interview with John T. Chambers, CEO, Cisco which clearly states why brands should care about this shift now. The first phase was about getting everyone connected. The next phase, which is just about now, is about getting people to understand the value of those connections. And there exist an experienced value in being part of a social network. Brands should understand this and take part in the human network in a human way. Now. Branding in the age of social media is about intimacy and intimacy requires dialogue.”

What is the future scenario of Branded Humanity?

“Brands have to develop a more human and personal side - not only in the dialogue with the consumer – but in all facets that characterize brand behavior. Brands could start to cast and recruit people to represent your brand in different situations. Maybe it gets distant to humanity, but anyway. And like I have favourite brands I would like to get insight to e.g. Coca-Colas favourite brands. I want the brand to admit and be introduced to its own flaws. To take a stand on things that used to be regular no go. Develop a brand personality has never been more important, and I’m really curious to see how brands will be dealing with this shift in communication in an era where digital rules.“

Editors note: I think this is another awesome example of Branded Humanity.

Editors note pt. 2: Danske Bank is trying to be human.

1 comment:

Kristian Baek said...

I think this is an interesting blog post mr. marketear. I agree with a lot of what you write but I'm not quite sure of all the implications and conclusions you reach. What you're calling for is a more informal tone from brands and exposing your flaws. The latter might be difficult because of confidentiality issues / stock exchange stuff... However, I do think that the increased transparency that the Internet brings will force this to a great extent.

I also think that many Brands have quite an informal tone in their TV and print ads - certainly here in DK, where everything is a (bad) joke. But agencies and corporations have not found a way of translating this into the web - because we all essentially still suck at making websites and communication for the Internet.

I don't like the name Branded Humanity - it sounds like CSR Branding or something from I, Robot (sucky movie)

//Grumpy the Dwarf