It's time to take off your corporate mask and be more human

Chris Dunkerley
March 7, 2017
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It's time to take off your corporate mask and be more human

Chris Dunkerley
September 18, 2017
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I believe the era of faceless corporate marketing messages is over. Consumers no longer buy it! It's time to up your game.

The corporate world, as we know it, is changing and it's time to act before it's too late!

"It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself" - Charles Darwin

This quote is well known and maybe a little over used at times but it is very relevant and clearly applies to business as well as Darwin's finches on the Galápagos Islands.

So, what exactly is this change in the corporate world? It is the very silent, intangible and undeniable U-turn on how we must communicate with our customers.

What exactly is the U-turn?

In business, I think it is widely accepted that people buy with emotion and justify with logic - that people buy from people.

In the past, we have labelled the way we do business under two main categories: B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer). I believe the shift is going to (or already has started to) consolidate these two categories into one. This new category is already being referred to as H2H - human to human.

I am not trying to take credit for coming up with this concept - I first came across it when speaking with my friend Alasdair McGill of Ashton McGill over a few drinks and then again online, specifically this blog article by Bryan Kramer.

The purpose of my article is to make you aware of this change and hopefully inspire you to take some action to be more human.

What has caused this change?

We are fed up and bored of the corporate selling machine.

The explosion of technology and the internet has provided us with an unprecedented amount of choice. We can now choose what we see, read and hear and we also get to choose the platform that provides us with the content we consume. We can now even choose to follow, listen to and watch specific individuals with whom we align ourselves with. This is something that was unheard of until recent times. 

Previously, we were forced to consume the limited mainstream media that was delivered through a small number of 'channels' - Television, newspapers and magazines. This has lead to around 80% of corporate marketing material out their today being completely out of touch and drastically missing the point - which is to connect to, engage with and inspire the humans they want as customers.

Back when there was limited choice, the consumer bought it all. However, as humans we learn quickly and we have since gone on to develop a finely tuned piece of equipment to help determine if the message is relevant for us or not - The Bullshit Indicator

The Bull Shit Indicator

In today's world we are bombarded with hundreds and sometimes thousands of marketing messages each day. We have become incredible good at sussing out which message is relevant and which is not. We just don't believe most of what we see, hear and read anymore. We are suspicious as default. I vividly remember as a youngster thinking that businesses advertising on TV was just something that you weren't supposed to believe. I don't think I have ever believed traditional advertising and corporate marketing messages. When i listen to commercial radio, I cringe.

Because of this, we take no prisoners. We recognise bull shit and call it out very quickly. We give so little attention to messages we don't value. Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how as soon as television advertising pops up on our screen, we fast forward them every time and if we don't have the fast forwarding facility, we pick up our phones and start looking on Facebook and/or other social channels. Advertising just doesn't get our attention like it used to. The corporate behemoths paying for TV ads need to flip the approach.

Not all corporate business has fallen foul to this approach. Some have previously identified the need to engage on a human level and have been very successful with it.

5 Examples of successful corporate 'human' campaigns

Here are a few examples of large corporate business understanding that things have been changing and trying to flip the approach by marketing a human message rather than a corporate one:

  1. BT - the family campaign. The adverts starring Kris Marshall and his adopted family were a huge success. This success was down to the relate-able human message and the connection it made with the target audience. The campaign lasted 10 years as the audience joined the family on their journey. A family human campaign is a safe strategy. Most of us can relate to family life and identify with the message.

  2. John Lewis - the famous Christmas campaigns - For me this truly started in 2011 with a very clever twist at the end of the ad but every year their audience awaits with bated breath to see the annual Christmas advert. The reason why these adverts are so successful is due to the human message and emotional connection they create with their audience.

  3. Halifax - The staff as stars campaign - Howard the singing customer services rep. This kind of campaign is exactly the kind of approach large corporate organisations should be doing more of. It stripped back the corporate image of bank within a very corporate industry and showed that they were just ordinary human beings. It was authentic and engaging and differentiated them from every other bank on the market.

  4. Department for Transport - Drink drive campaign - This hard hitting human campaign honed in on the target audience with no mercy. The message was clear and the implications of drink driving were even clearer. The audience could relate to the story on a very human level and therefore the message was received loud and clear.

  5. HovisAs good today as it has ever been campaign - This campaign was a huge success and this was due to the wide ranging target audience it was after and also that it connected on an emotional human level by tickling the fibres of nostalgia for almost every single English person.

How can I be more human?

Corporate organisations (large & small) have to embrace the fact, that no matter what they offer as a product or service, they are now marketing to a much more educated, savvy and choosy audience. This audience also have a much shorter attention span than any that have gone before them. They are also now searching for what they want and not just waiting for you to present your message in front of their noses. Therefore, they need to feel engaged before they buy and that they can identify with the organisation that is selling to them.

I think the best way to do this, is to humanise the corporate approach and appeal directly to your audience on an emotional and engaging level. One of the most effective ways of doing this, is through storytelling. For business storytelling coaching and expertise and some truly fabulous Dad dancing, see Kevin Anderson at The Story Edge. He is not only an expert, he is a top human.

I am fed up with manipulative marketing techniques. I see it and hear it every day, all the time. I am writing this to encourage others to lead by example of stop trying to win business through out of touch faceless corporate messages but messages of true values and human story telling.

Just be you! Connect and engage with your target audience on a level that they can relate to.

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