Zeno launches tool to help brands become more human

Zeno Group has developed a tool called The Brand Humanizer that could help brands better align with consumers' values.

Zeno Group CEO Barby Siegel
Zeno Group CEO Barby Siegel

NEW YORK: Zeno Group has developed a tool called The Brand Humanizer based on findings from a joint research project with CEB Iconoculture that could help brands better align with consumers’ values.

The Human Project study, conducted between April and the end of September, expanded upon insights from CEB Iconoculture’s five-year-long Values and Lifestyle Survey, which tracks the behaviors and values of specific demographics. Zeno interviewed 1,000 families with children ages 0 to 18 across the Millennial, Xer, and Young Boomer generations, using CEB Iconoculture’s scale of 92 values, which include family, love, sexuality, and safety.

Based on results from The Human Project, Zeno’s Brand Humanizer aims to help companies identify their own values, the values of their target audiences, and where those values converge. The tool will allow Zeno "to customize research" further for clients, said Therese Caruso, MD of global strategy and insights at the agency.

"It’s important for brands to examine people not as consumers who consume things, but as people who have values and behaviors that drive them to do the things they do every day," Caruso explained.

Zeno decided to launch The Human Project and The Brand Humanizer after reviewing findings from the firm’s research partner GFK Roper, which revealed that people want brands to behave like their best friends. The research showed that consumers want brands to possess human-like qualities, such as loyalty and fun, and to provide real experiences that improve their lives.

"If a brand is going to be a best friend, then naturally it needs to become more human," said Caruso.

This year, one of the key themes that emerged from The Human Project was that parents have a "complex relationship with technology," Caruso said. Some of the surveyed parents view tech as distracting or threatening, while others find it empowering.

Seventy-nine percent of parents plan major purchase decisions around the needs of the whole family, while 63% say kids are the focus or part of everything they do as a family, according to the study.

Another theme was the high priority that survey respondents place on family, safety, and sexuality. For families with children ages 0 to 18, family ranked as the number one value out of 92, safety came in at seven, and sexuality was ranked at 23. For other consumers outside that demographic, family was ranked 24, safety 29, and sexuality 56.  

The study also revealed the conflicting viewpoints between men and women in families. For example, Gen X moms say they do the bulk of the household work, while Gen X dads say they share the workload, Caruso said. Millennials "grew up in a more gender agnostic state," so moms and dads of that generation tend to work together more collaboratively, she added.

The Human Project will study a different segment of people each year. Zeno CEO Barby Siegel said The Brand Humanizer should provoke new conversations among marketers about how they view their brands and consumers.

"We’re not saying that traditional marketing research is not the way to go. What we’re saying is that it’s not enough and we want marketers to add to that with a deep dive into values and emotions," Siegel said.

The tool could also help engage internal audiences, which are often a brand’s "best advocate and champion," Siegel added.

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