The Rise of the Human Brand

Think of your favorite brand.

What comes to mind: Is it the brand you keep seeing commercials from featuring a celebrity? Is it the brand that’s plastered all over town, from billboards to subway signs? Or is the brand that has made you feel something?

Think about this: our ties to technology have made it easier than ever to access, receive and rely on information that connects us to brands, products and each other. Despite our dependence on technology, we still expect and desire a human connection above all. As Dharmesh Shah, cofounder of HubSpot said, “Humans don’t buy from companies; humans buy from humans…”jetblue

With that in mind, I can easily list off the brands I love. I tell my friends about the brands I love. But why I love the brands that I love is as much about the quality of the product as it is about my connection to the persona of the company that makes it. That persona gives me a very real sense that I’m part of something bigger than myself when I make a purchase; I’m part of a story.

So how is it that a brand can have this effect on a consumer? What are these brands doing to tap into the experience of what it means to be human? It’s in their messaging – or rather, their storytelling.

This seems to be particularly true of brands that have inserted themselves into the marketplace as “lifestyle” brands in the sense that they’ve assumed the lifestyles of their core customers, beyond a product category. To note Simon Sinek’s TED Talk – people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Consider JetBlue, Apple, Cheerios, TOMS, and Subaru – each brand has made their products a testament to their brand story. These brands, and brands like them, market to a very well-defined customer persona and frame their storytelling around the needs, wants, and beliefs of that particular audience. More importantly, the messages these brands deliver are perceived and accepted by the consumer as authentic.

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Authenticity stems from a brand’s ability to adopt its consumers’ stories as part of their own narrative, creating the opportunity for customers to own, engage with, and share their brand experience.

Take a look at the ads below – there’s one common thread: their messaging is human, complete with shared emotion and values.

Cheerios – “Gracie”

As a popular American cereal brand, Cheerios has become a staple in the American household.  In its Super Bowl 2014 ad spot, Cheerios debuted its first interracial family. Though some voiced outrage that the cereal company featured a mixed race family, most applauded Cheerios for depicting a family that mirrors what more and more modern families look like. This acknowledgement of the changing image of the American family placed Cheerios at the forefront of consumer minds as a progressive and accepting company.

JetBlue – “Air On The Side Of Humanity”

In its recent campaign strategy, JetBlue acknowledges the headache that has become air travel by featuring an under-appreciated frequent flier often viewed as a nuisance and that is generally ignored: pigeons. This metaphor addresses common complaints travelers have about flight experiences and aligns with JetBlue’s commitment to treating passengers with respect. Our feature pigeon’s closing remark:  “There’s got to be a way to fly with a little respect. You know?”

Expedia – “Connections”

“Connections” has dual meaning in Expedia’s latest ad, not just referring to catching a flight, but also to making emotional and experiential connections when traveling. Particularly poignant is the new family of adoptive gay parents, presumably introducing their new baby to their relatives thanks to a flight purchased on Expedia. The travel company tells a story of what it means to connect to places and people alike.

Subaru – “Making Memories”

Subaru knows its demographic very well, often featuring ads with dogs and their families. The carmaker also sets itself apart from the pack as a lifetime brand of such high quality that it is passed down from generation to generation. Its emphasis on family ties, both of the human and canine variety, make for emotional marketing campaigns. The ad below features this exact sentiment, stating “You can pass down the Subaru, but you get to keep the memories.” 

Apple – “Misunderstood”

Any family with teenagers can relate to seeing them glued to their mobile devices – they’re distracted, disengaged, and miss out on opportunities to make memories, right? Not always, according to Apple’s 2014 holiday ad featuring a teen who is seemingly missing out on the entire family Christmas gathering… until the end, when he shows his family that all that screen time on his iPhone was spent capturing videos and photos of their memorable moments. Can I get a tissue? I think I have something in my eye…

TOMS – “Restore more than sight”

TOMS has made a place for itself in the marketplace as the do-good footwear brand with its one-for-one business model. Every shoe purchase provides a child in need with a free pair of shoes. TOMS also sells a variety of accessory products including socks, bags, hats, and eyewear. Though it’s rare to see a TOMS commercial (they don’t produce many video ads), this campaign’s premise articulates our entire point – brands that think about the impact their products have on the lives of their consumers are connecting the two sides of the brand-consumer story.  As Darin, eyewear product developer featured in the ad states, “There’s an extra ingredient that goes into a TOMS product, and that’s the story.”

Whirlpool – “Every day, care”

If only mom’s had a nickel for every time they asked “who,” “what,” “why, ” or “how”! Whirlpool’s ad below shows a devoted mom who deals with her fair share of messes thanks to a busy household with young children. As much as she focuses on caring for her family, Whirlpool cares about making her life a bit easier with high quality, no-fuss appliances. Every day, care – moms do, and so does Whirlpool.

The humanness of each of these brands represents a much grander shift in marketing strategy and expectation of consumer engagement. The response we’ve seen in the influence marketing space indicates that this approach is the new age of advertising. In fact, making brands more human is what MAVRCK is all about. To learn more about how we can help you, request a demo here.

About Mavrck

We all know word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing, but word-of-mouth automation at scale has always been a challenge. At Mavrck, we harness the power of human-to-human marketing at scale by tapping into your most valuable asset: existing customers with influence.

By focusing on influential customers who engage a high percentage of their friends around a brand's relevant topics or keywords, Mavrck's patented micro-influencer marketing platform powers consumer brands like Hershey's, Sears and Unilever to discover and activate millions of their micro-influencers to distribute content and drive conversions across social networks.

On average, our "always-on" activation engine will get 3 friends to convert for every 1 micro-influencer activated.