Being more “human” is the best way to reach customers on a more personal level.
If you were active on the internet in 2017, you would have seen the rise in popularity of the fast-food chain Wendy’s Twitter handle. On January 4, 2017, a Twitter user questioned the validity of Wendy’s claim that the beef used in its products was fresh, as the meat couldn’t be brought to the chain’s locations in hot trucks raw. The company’s Twitter handle shot back, saying that the user had forgotten that refrigerators exist.
Subverting the usual corporate politeness expected of brands, Wendy’s poked fun at its customer. The trend blew up, and people even began requesting Wendy’s Twitter account to roast them, with the company going as far as to declare January 4 “national roast day”. What Wendy’s and many others have accomplished in the wake of the company’s Twitter virality is creating a human identity for their brand. Let’s look at brand humanization and how you can use it to increase your customer base.
How to make a brand more human
Simply put, brand humanization is the process of creating a human persona with identifiable traits for your company. It will be reflected in the way you interact with customers, such as how you respond to comments on Twitter. Based on what your customers like, this image could be ironic and blunt, existentialist and woke etc. Here are some ways you can humanize your brand:
Showcase behind-the-scenes action
One of the things you can do to seem more authentic is to give your customers a peek behind the curtain. You can do so by highlighting your employees and their unique personalities to establish a sense of trust with your customers. For instance, you can create witty bios for your employees on the company website, post highlights of company outings and just share a typical day of work at your office.
The online fashion retailer Zappos is a good example of showing off work culture through social media. The company has a dedicated Instagram account (@zapposculture) that solely focuses on its team and the different festivities (like Pride and World Environment Day) that they celebrate together.
Interact with your customers
The ultimate goal of brand humanization is to make yourself seem more relatable, and the best way to do so is by directly communicating with the customers. This doesn’t require any exceptional marketing investment on your part; your social media team simply needs to reply to people, be it on Twitter or in the comments of your social media posts.
You can also repost or reply to the content other people are creating about your brand, like product reviews or commentary. It can encourage more people to produce content so that they receive a shoutout from your official social media account.
A recent example of brands engaging more actively with social media users was the Walmart vs. Target shopping cart war of 2021. It all started with a Target employee posting a video about an abandoned Walmart shopping cart left in a Target parking lot. The Walmart TikTok account replied to this video and thus began a massive TikTok trend of posting videos about the two companies; other brands also chimed in to pick sides and comment on these videos.
Collaborate with influencers
Another great way to seem more human is to work with people adept at using social media. They already have an established following that trusts them to recommend high-quality products and services. Having a human face attached to your brand would make reaching a broader audience base much more effortless.
An example of successful influencer marketing is Dunkin’ Donuts’ partnership with Charli D’Amelio, the most followed creator on TikTok. The company created a drink, “the Charli”, named after the influencer, which led to a 57% increase in app downloads on launch day. It also led to a 20% increase in cold brew sales on the same day, with a 45% increase the next day.
While influencer marketing can be effective, it does require some legwork. Companies must carefully evaluate influencers when choosing who to partner with to check whether their image aligns with company values.
Importance of ensuring ethical brand humanization
Ever since the advent of the internet, it has become essential for brands to engage more actively with their customers through social media. Brands don’t simply need to use social media to help customers if they face any inconvenience in their purchase. Today, they also need to give them a
window into the brand and the people behind it to get the customers to spend their hard-earned money. In a world where people are almost always interacting with screens, humanizing your brand tells the customer that they aren’t just interacting with machines but real people.
While brand humanization can effectively connect with your customers, it can go really wrong if the people responsible for your social channels aren’t doing enough research beforehand. For instance, in 2014, the frozen pizza company Dijorno received a lot of backlashes because its Twitter account tweeted, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza”. The hashtag was actually about people coming forward and sharing why they stayed with their abusive partner for as long as they did.
Besides Dijorno, there have also been other instances where companies missed the mark on brand humanization. In 2018, the American frozen stake company Steak-umm’s Twitter handle began making meta-commentary about how people flock to brand social media accounts because they are isolated and living with mental health problems. Steak-umm went even further to discuss student debt in the U.S. and how the millennial generation has been fed on mass advertising. Whether the message makes sense or not, that it comes from a brand simply appeared to be an attempt at unique advertising and left an unsavory taste in people’s mouths.
All that wasn’t to discourage you from humanizing your brand. Just remember that there is a fine line between tweeting like a relatable person and alienating customers by discussing an anti-consumerist stance through a brand’s social media account. As long as you tread that line with care and follow the tips we shared above, humanized content will help you reach more people and create a lasting impression on them.
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Header image courtesy of Wendy’s and SunnyD’s Twitter accounts