Humans build brands not machines

Yes, we’re still needed
Human Centric marketing is how we build Brands – now and into the future.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella , at the World Economic Forumearlier this year, said
‘Ultimately, it’s not going to be about human vs. machine.
Microsoft is designing systems to assist humanity”
How to assist humanity ? That’s the same challenge for us as Marketers. How do we design and support strategies that help humanity and keep people at the centre.
Technology is an enabler but it doesn’t build a brand. Humans build Brands. It’s the qualities that make us human ,such as the ability to have compassion or be creative, that means we’re not robots. It’s those kind feelings that imbue our Brands with a heart and soul. Neglect them and you become one of the crowd competing on dimensions of efficiency rather than differentiation.
20 years ago, the great Garry Kasparov, the greatest chess player in the world took on the IBM computer Deep Blue – and failed. In his recent bookDeep Thinking, he wrote“Machinesthat replace physical labor have allowed us to focus more on what makes us human: our minds. Intelligent machines will continue that process, taking over the more menial aspects of cognition and elevating our mental lives toward creativity, curiosity, beauty and joy.”
Creativity, curiosity, beauty and Joy – what a manifesto for a Brand!
We need to identify and elevate the human dimensions of our brands.
Human centric means you have a deep understanding of how your customers think and behave. You know what their problems are and what they need. You take those learnings and apply them to the strategy decisions you make. You incorporate that thinking into everything that you do.
“Human-centric marketing is defined by brands that approach engaging their current and prospective customers …as whole human beings with hearts, minds, and spirits.” Philip Kotler
It’s a philosophy rather than a prescriptive set of instructions or rules. Fundamentally it’s about getting close to our customers and through our human interactions create meaningful customer relationships.
Being Human Centric is about purpose and meaning. In marketing people don’t remember what we say as much as how we make them feel. Emotion, empathy and authentic engagementwins us people’s hearts as much as their rational minds.
Empathy is the critical ingredient.
Ideo’s Tom and David Kelley wrote in their book,“Beinghuman centered is at the core of our innovation process. Deep empathy for people makes our observations powerful sources of inspiration. We aim to understand why people do what they currently do, with the goal of understanding what they might do in the future.”
It’s not what the technology can do that matters, it’s how it helps people improve their lives, in some way, however big or small.
We want to see things through our customer’s eyes, to feel what they feel so that we can hear the conversation they have in their heads. Then we can create and anticipate. Applying technological innovations to fulfil real needs. The tech informs and inspires our strategic choices. But it needs to be done in a human way.
We don’t want technology to dehumanize the experience we have. And nor do our consumers! 79% of consumersprefer the human touch to remain a part of customer service when engaging with brands and service providers – especially when their questions or needs are more complex.
And we can use technology to give people a human experience. One of the reasons I love the pen on my Microsoft surface so much is because using pen and ink makes the experience feel more human. Weird maybe but I connect with the device more when I write rather than type.
In relation to developing Brands here are 10 characteristics which help us stay human centric. They’re not prescriptive. Let them prompt a discussion about what makes your brand human.
Ally these characteristics to the efficiency and experience you can create with new technologies and it’s a win-win for humanity and machine.
  1. We solve problems differently.The truth is it’s a tough ask to get a machine to think like a human with all our conscious and subconscious reasoning, perceptions and judgements. Our conceptual understanding & creative imagination of how to solve a problem which hasn’t been done before is what created these technologies in the first place. We keep pushing the frontiers of what’s possible – and will continue to do so.
  2. We have common sense.We use our judgment based on our understanding or perception of the‘facts.In a customer service situation this may be showing the customer you are grateful for their business or saying thank you in a spontaneous way because your common sense tells you they need that today. An article in The New Scientisthighlighted this challenge for AI’” Computers can learn without our guidance, but the knowledge they acquire is meaningless beyond the problem they are set”
  3. We are driven by a different measure of success.As business owners, we may choose purpose over profit. We may sacrifice efficiency for a better experience. It’s not always the most logical thing to do and it will vary person by person. My measure of success is different to yours. Indeed, many of the most successful companies today are motivated by purpose and passion, not cash. And such firms of endearmenthave outperformed the S&P by 14 times. Brands with purpose will thrive in the future. Machines don’t have purpose – they enable us to achieve ours.
  4. We care.One of our strongest motivators is how we help and serve others to make a positive difference. We are wired to connect. There’s a spirit of giving and service. We may find that robots are actually better at surgery in the futurebut do you really want one to hold your hand and give it a comforting squeeze as you go into the operating theatre?
Our mission,as marketers, is to strive for the use of machines which promote our connectedness as humans rather than dehumanising the interaction and experience.
Customers value too how we care about the broader impact on the world through making a positive difference. They buy into our Why as much as they do the what we do. For Brands, make sure that whatever we get machines to do, it’s always done in a way that positively helps people.
5. We are Storytellers.Our ability to tell a story that connects emotionally with your customer. But maybe our days are numbered here? According to the New York Times“ashocking amount of what we’re reading is created not by humans, but by computer algorithms”. And who can guess who the poet is here, human or machine?
6. We do the unexpected.Machines deliver an experience based on structures, norms and rules. Humans can deliver an amazing experience that goes way beyond their expectations. We may decide our brand’s goal is simply to make people laugh or smile. We can surprise and delight. It can be small things, delivering an unexpected gift, writing them a handwritten note to say thank you – going above and beyond what’s necessary. All of which creates stronger brand experiences.
7.We are intuitive.A lot of the things we do are irrational. We can’t always explain the way we think. Or why we trust some people and not others. Marketing requires an in depth understanding of people. Real creativity can come from an irrational gut instinct. It can’t always be measured or explained. And yet could AI also be intuitive and what would that mean for Brands? Having machines that operate in ways we don’t understand! The conclusion in a fascinating MIT article on AIsaid”“Ifit can’t do better than us at explaining what it’s doing, then don’t trust it.”
8. We are empathetic.Empathy means that we understand and share the feelings of someone else. It’s about making a human and meaningful connection. Sometimes this may be picked up in what people don’t say as much as what they do and their body language.
In marketing our ability to empathize with how customers and staff may be feeling is critical to build relationships. As well as enabling us to work collaboratively with others across functional divides and hierarchies.
9. We are true creatives.Machines don’t dream – we do. Machines need assumptions, structures and rules. But disruptive innovations come when we throw those rules aside, discard our assumptions – and create. It’s human creativity which will see us create new opportunities no one has even thought of yet. It’s human creativity that will prevent us becoming redundant
10. We are vulnerable.When we show up as our real, raw, vulnerable selves we can be more interesting and more engaging. There’s a danger in everything being done so perfectly that it looks artificial, it’s a false veneer over the real offer.
Customers hunger after the real thing.
By sharing those vulnerabilities, or owning our mistakes we form a deeper bond. We create stronger brands when we have honest and open conversations. When people know who we are and what we believe in.
The technology offers immense opportunities for marketers. Moreover we can build brands which focus on the transformative outcomes and human experiences – leveraging the technology to achieve those goals.My intent is to open the discussion around how we build brands with hearts, minds and soul. Brands which build deep connections and engage their customers. Brands with humanity.
P.S. If you want to learn how to build a human centric brand and business, let’s have a conversation – human to human.

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