Brands need to drop the agenda and be more human

It's about us, not them, but brands are missing the chance to connect with the public. Maybe they should phone a friend.

Despite all the industry rhetoric about humanising brands, it amazes me how many are either lazy or just absent from people’s lives when there are clearly huge opportunities to connect with them on a human level.

What do I mean by that? For me, being human is about ­being empathetic and thoughtful. It’s about being able to connect with people on both an emotional and spiritual level. It’s about understanding your fellow man and being able to anticipate their needs.

But how many brands really embody those characteristics as opposed to just claiming they do?

I currently find the Lloyds Bank It’s On Us campaign ­incredibly frustrating in its attempts to be ‘human’, both as a customer and a marketeer.

It’s a campaign that claims to reward thousands of ­customers each week by crediting things you have bought on your card. I’ve not been rewarded yet. Neither have my brother, dad or any friends who are customers. One day, hey?

The reality is it’s a lazy shorthand attempt to win hearts with random acts of kindness. And it falls far short of what I ­really want my bank to do with its marketing budgets, especially when they fundamentally need to rebuild my trust.

If they’d asked me what would ‘win my heart’, I’d tell them I’d love them to do something to make the world a better place, because I just don’t have the time to. I’d tell them I want them to do something to help with homelessness. I’d tell them I want them to invest in local families’ lives. I’d tell them that I don’t want their random flowers and shoes. But that’s me.

And I guess that’s the point. I want the bank’s marketing to me to be about me. It’s about me. Not you. Don’t you see? In the bid to analyse ‘big data’, it seems to me that many brands are missing the colour between the lines.

So how can a brand be human? It’s simple. Drop the agenda for five minutes, listen, ask and empathise as you would with any of your friends. See people as people. Not just consumers and numbers.

I know that many brands spend huge amounts of money on insight. But it still leaves me bemused about how many of them are missing huge opportunities to connect with people, by just being human. Maybe they should ask people’s friends what they think their friends need.

A few of my friends will tell you that there are millions of singletons looking for love right now who are on the front line of despair struggling with the challenging world that is ­online dating.

They’d also tell you that there are millions of mothers ­struggling to cope with little support and no village of women around them as they once had. What are you going to do to help them? Because as far as I can see, right now, no brand truly is.
And that’s exciting. We have the chance as an industry to be truly human and to truly help. If you remember, it’s about me – not you.

Frankie Oliver is joint MD at Fever

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