At the heart of every brand and every conversation is a human. At the centre of every exchange is a human. What drives us humans are our emotional ties and links to, well, other humans. And, from time to time, brands.
This is why we care. This is what gets us out of bed every day.
Because we care about humans. We want to make them happy, thirsty, indulge, enjoy, celebrate, organise, drink, save, share, live, laugh. Sometimes we can lose sight of human connection – especially when data, innovation and technology are the central focus. But what technology and data really do, much like any other revolution, is allow us to understand "human being" better and deliver better human experiences.
As brand guardians, business owners, agency managers and creative directors, we must be compelled to create on a human, emotional level. Yes, commercials drive us, but our emotional and physical engagement with people is the lifeblood of our business. And that’s the trick: to remember that. As brand guardians, we have the opportunity to motivate, inspire and make a real difference – and this, to me, is one of the most compelling things about our business. We move people, emotionally.
Alongside insights, research, data and technology, neuroscience is emerging as a way to gain a deeper understanding of today’s consumers. However, we must remember that, while today’s technology and media would have been unrecognisable 20 years ago, our brains are still wired the same.
The experiences that we deliver must be customised so that they connect emotionally with everyone on a level that matters to them and is relevant to them. This makes for a credible, meaningful exchange. Without that, it’s transactional.
We must be generous in our spirit through our brand creations and campaigns. Give our brand fans an opportunity to engage with us, co-create with us and help make the world a better place in some small
or big way. Listen to them, genuinely. If I could choose between listening and telling, I’d listen – ten times over.
Authenticity is also incredibly important. If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Don’t do it. If, for one minute, you don’t love what you’re creating and cannot see the value in it, don’t do it. All good brands (and people) are built on years of saying no.
Have a social purpose
Brands with a social purpose have a stronger place in the hearts of youth audiences. Although brands such as Starbucks can come under fire for tackling subjects such as gun control and racial tension, I think it’s great to see them using their clout to try to make the world a better place – one mocha at a time. It’s a delicate area, but when a brand genuinely cares – and its cause becomes its marketing message – its authenticity really resonates on a human level; on an emotional level. And then, finally,
on a commercial level. This is a long game and one that must be intrinsically linked to a company’s DNA.
Finally, people create great things when they come together. Collaboration breaks moulds and stakes out new territories in everything from science to art. Our business is no different – and the wider we throw our net, the closer we are to breaking new ground. A diverse consortium – of brands, creatives, technologists, scientists, engineers and artists – collaborating, in the spirit of invention or innovation, is where the next big thing will emerge from. Supporting that effort is what visionary brand guardians do – and is why they always win out in the end.
So, by becoming more human-focused, suddenly we lose all the frills; the unnecessary. We focus on having a meaningful engagement with our audience; an authentic experience that has the customer at the centre of our world. Someone recently asked me: "Is the customer finally king?" To that, I say: "Humans are king."
Humans come in all shapes and sizes and, in representing brands and in everyday living, we will spend the rest of our lives trying to understand them. Let’s start here.
Jane McDaid is the founder of Thinkhouse