It’s Time to Re-Humanize Marketing. Four Rules for Humanizing Communications.

March 19, 2012 4:39 pm

“I work all day at the factory Building a machine that’s not for me Must be a reason that I can’t see You’ve got to humanize yourself”
~ The Police “Re-Humanize Yourself”

Modern marketing is a dizzying maelstrom of micro-trends: digital, addressable, behavioral, social, mobile, location-based, etcetera.

With so many bright shiny objects, these are our choices.

Go blind from looking at them all.

Go broke from trying them all.

Or get smart and look beyond the micro-trends, and focus on the macro-trend that lies at the source.

Communications Is Becoming More Human

As important as Google and Facebook are, they are effects of a revolution, not the cause.

The important revolution is this: digital has driven the cost of producing and sharing our ideas with the entire world to zero. This flips the media world on its head.

In his excellent (and highly recommended) new book “Cognitive Surplus” Clay Shirky says:

“We need a new conception for the word (media), one that dispenses with the connotations of something produced by professionals for consumption by amateurs.

Here’s mine: media is the connective tissue of society. Media is how you know what’s happening in Tehran, ….what your colleague named her baby, (and) when your next meeting is.”

Media was once expensive, scarce and produced by professionals. Now much of it is free, over-abundant and made by everyone.

As communications becomes more human, we must humanize communications. But, we’re not there yet.

Marketing Is Becoming Less Human Every Day

The macro-trend for more human communication has been met with a corresponding marketing macro-trend for more automation.

Have you seen the chart recently presented at the IAB Networks and Exchanges Marketplace? It all but shouts: “You won’t sit still for advertising? Fine. We’ll just hunt you down.”

Terence Kawaja Luma Slide

Terence Kawaja's Luma Landscape

We chase short-term direct marketing goals in digital, even though we know that brand loyalty is built over time. We optimize to click-through rates, even though CTRs are near zero, and most of us don’t believe this is how banner ads create value anyway.

Like The Terminator, we target and re-target. Nothing’s out of bounds. We dig into people’s finances (thanks, credit bureaus!) and eavesdrop on their conversations (thanks Facebook!) We interrupt. We road-block. We use every weapon we can find.

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Social Media Isn’t Necessarily More Human

Social Media is a step in the right direction. But the temptation to seek short-term “success” at the expense of long-term brand building is as overwhelming there as in any other medium. Is it taking too long to earn loyalty and make friends? No problem. Companies like uSocial let us buy them.

And these friends are absolutely happy to be bought. Why do consumers follow us on Twitter or friend us on Facebook? Because they suspect (quite rightly) that we will buy their “loyalty” with deals.

At its best, social media achieves what mass media cannot: intimacy. But the tradeoff is that intimacy — by definition — doesn’t scale. Social media is very, very important. But it’s a part of building a feedback loop, not the whole thing.

Scratch the surface of any big social marketing success story, and underneath you will see that it is actually just one part of a very smart integrated campaign.

It’s Time To Re-Humanize Marketing

1. If consumers want more human communications, we need to stop faking it and start caring about the things they really care about.

2. We need to start being more honest in our conference rooms. Yes, we can buy short-term sales easily – and yes, there may be times when it’s smart to do exactly that. But we must also acknowledge that no real, lasting relationship was ever built on a spreadsheet.

3. Yes, we can hunt down consumers and try to get them to hand over their wallets. But it’s better to create great environments and positive human experiences so that people will seek us out.

4. We need to remember that being on top of trends means looking beyond individual blips of data to discover the bigger picture. And today, that bigger picture looks more and more human.

The legendary salesman, Zig Ziglar, was an avid student of human behavior. Marketing would do well to heed his advice:

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

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