We have been humanizing brands for almost two decades now; helping management teams see the importance of a more human brand strategy. This idea faces some controversy as there are those who can’t see the corporation as a person. While we respect the opinion, the idea that brands take on human attributes isn’t new.
We, the human race, invented these things known as brands to represent us when we’re not there. So, they started with human attributes and it is only with the modern corporation that we’ve dehumanized them.
So what does it mean to humanize a brand?
Our methodology uses constructs pulled from academia like archetypes and deep metaphors. Our contemporaries have other methods to define a brand, personality, promise, attributes, values, mission, vision, etc. Whatever the method, many tie back to human attributes or social science methods to define human behaviors. It makes sense to have a brand act more human, if not only to have it be more humane.
A few weeks ago I was heading up a panel for an event in NYC, Foresight & Trends. One of the speakers that day, Oshiya Savur of Elizabeth Arden, made some rather compelling points about the modern corporation as a human being. She pointed to a study that profiled corporations the way you would a human being and the results indicated, wait for it, sociopath. Yes, the modern corporation profiles as the person many of us would avoid at any cost. The exact opposite of a person with any form of empathy running through their bloodstream.
Okay, the modern corporation isn’t the best human being, as of yet. Perhaps this is due to a unrelenting focus on profits first and sometimes profits only. Perhaps this is due to a public trading market with expectations of quarterly results. Or maybe we’ve invented these things called corporations to be the worst of who we are as human beings. This may be the rose colored, blind-optimist, contact lenses this author wears, but we have to see a better future for the corporation as a brand.
We have to hold corporations up to a higher standard and believe in their role as members of our society. We have access to profound amounts of information and can instantly call them on their lies, advertising puffery or twisting of the truth. We can be the cautious buyer and check Glassdoor, Yelp or any other site aggregating bad brand behaviors. We can be more informed consumers. It doesn’t take much to show we care by not buying those who don’t seem to care about us.
If we hold corporations up to human standards and help them see what happens when they don’t — the modern corporation can do more. Here are three things we think need to be considered for this to happen.
One: This means more of us need to be teaching what a modern brand should be behaving like in our society. We need to help the corporation see the human side of their brand and what it means in behaviors.
Two: We need a quarterly public market for behaviors beyond financial data. We need a public forum that accounts for good and bad behaviors by corporations and reports it out right before quarterly results are announced.
Three: We need to move beyond blind consumerism to an activist consumer economy. The information is available and the movement seems to be building in small pockets of our economy. Now we need to add an accelerant to the movement.
We can hold up a mirror to help our modern corporations see themselves. We have the ability and really, the obligation. If we can confidently answer the question, yes, then hell yes a modern corporation can care. And for the future of our society, it needs to care about humans, humanity and our collective future.
If you’d like to help us push this movement forward, please share and reach out.