Human-to-human communication in the marketing world will take center stage in 2017 – are you prepared?
Ten years ago in Santa Maria, California in a humble office building, there was a busy call center. The employees in this call center were hardwired into the centralized ordering system for hundreds of McDonald’s restaurants around the nation, and each worker was responsible for quickly and accurately taking orders from the never-ending chain of idling SUVs and sedans that clog McDonald’s drive-thru lanes everywhere.
That’s right – you might be talking to an “order taker” in Ohio as you enter a McDonald’s drive-thru in Denver. Talk about dehumanizing the experience, right? Once they replace workers in the restaurant with robots or all push-button ordering screens, there won’t be much humanization left at the Golden Arches. This concept, which is most likely not in the too distant future, is one reason why humanization will rule marketing trends in 2017.
Humanization in the Face of technology
Have you ever witnessed a time in history when people were more reliant on technology than we are now? Ask anyone who has had to wait days for their new cell phone after breaking their existing one. Or the individual whose car’s GPS navigation failed and they have to figure out how to get to their destination using…gasp, a map!
Humans today are under a constant, self-inflicted assault from technology. It has become so pervasive that many of us are yearning for some type of human-to-human interaction. This feeling extends all the way to commerce and marketing.
To combat these dehumanizing feelings, businesses in 2017 must find ways to “re-humanize” their activities to better connect with their clients and new audiences. We are living in an era that is quickly transitioning to a “human era.” People want to connect with brands and businesses, rather than being just another consumer of the organization’s products. Think – the opposite of the Industrial Era mindset.
Businesses that have taken the “re-humanization” aspect to heart
REI – By closing their 143 retail stores on Black Friday and encouraging their employees and customers to enjoy the great outdoors after Thanksgiving, the company spoke directly to their audience. This generous decision generated a massive swell of positive sentiments toward their brand. From a marketing perspective, they likely lost nothing in terms of gross sales. Yet, earned the admiration of their customers and the public.
Shake Shack – Known for awesome burgers and a cult-like following, Shake Shack has taken a human-era approach to problem resolutions in their stores. The brand empowers employees to make the “charitable assumption” when it comes to customer complaints. This means managers and employees aim to have the customer leave the restaurant thinking, “Wow… I never would have thought they’d accommodate my request or validate my concern. I can’t believe how they went above and beyond.”
Facebook – In the wake of high-profile terrorist attacks and natural disasters around the world over the past several years, the social media giant turned on a feature called “Safety Check.” This addition enables users to check-in with family members after a harrowing event. This is especially important when you consider that traditional phone or mobile communication is often compromised after a disaster. Facebook created a feature to help calm family members during what may be a truly frightening time in their lives.
How Do You Humanize Your Brand?
Creating a sense of real, human connection with your customers must be a priority in 2017, and there are several ways to do so from a marketing perspective.
- Allow your customers or fans of your social media page to tell stories about their experiences via your digital platform. You’ll foster a sense of humanity that will endear others to your brand.
- Create communities around your brand that will encourage others to join and feel what it is like to rally around a product. Ever spent time at an Apple store over the weekend? It’s full of aficionados of the House of Jobs who wouldn’t think of walking into a PC-based computer store.
- Be the trusted one in your industry. Focus on being customer-centric and as transparent as possible. Respond to social media posts and create meaningful dialogue with customers.
2017 is the year in which you have the perfect opportunity to create more personal, human connections with your customers. It isn’t just another marketing idea to try out this year. It must be the foundation of your marketing efforts as we move into the next year and beyond.