Humanizing and Building Trust With Your Brand

With the onslaught of noises, images, and sales pitches we face, it’s easy to become tone deaf when it comes to marketing tactics. As a business person, you need your message to somehow rise above it all. Fortunately, you don’t need a megaphone to make this happen. Instead, you need a connection.

Connect with your consumers. Make them trust you. Convince them that your company cares.

People flock to the rare business with which they feel a genuine connection. Learning how to make this happen is imperative in today’s market.

In 2017, TIME magazine released its list of the most influential Superbowl advertising campaigns of all time. Toward the top of the list was “Puppy Love,” a commercial that introduced a new side of Budweiser beer to America. It was given top honors not due to its catchy copy (of which there is none), but rather its heartfelt approach. It managed to make a meaningful connection with viewers.

You need to do the same.

Rather than becoming eagle-eyed about sales numbers and profits, you need to humanize your brand. People trust other people more than they trust brands. The secret to a successful business, then, is to make your brand seem a bit more like a human. Here’s how.

Create a Persona

Image via Flickr by Phong & Skulbboh

As a former English teacher, it’s easy to see why I love this step to building trust in a company. That is, through the creation of a fictional person who serves to represent your company.

It’s challenging to humanize a corporate name or logo; it’s much easier to visualize a human with a distinct personality, voice, and characteristics. So do it. Picture your company as a person. Assign it a name, a style of clothing, and a manner of speaking. Does this person talk with a sassy attitude or is the person more demure? Salty or sweet? Early morning or late night? Flesh out these details and make it into your brand’s avatar. From there, it’s relatively easy to slip into the mentality that your company is, well, human.

Form an Emotional Connection

Think of consumers as excellent detectives: they can weed through the muck and recognize a sincere connection when one exists. Corporations that research their products thoroughly test their messaging on consumers to ensure it is compelling and pose real problems with real solutions are the most successful.

Men from the Baby Boomer generation are least likely to trust advertisers (26 percent) while women from the same generation are close in their skepticism (21 percent). In contrast, Millenial men are the most likely to believe what advertisers say (47 percent), followed by Millenial women (34 percent). The most common reason cited for not trusting a brand is because it doesn’t seem relevant to them and reflect real life, thereby preventing them from relating to the message.

The brand Always manages to create this emotional connection and build trust by focusing on a universal message that many people (especially women and girls) can relate to — that the confidence girls possess drops dramatically during puberty.

The messaging that Always delivers comes across as authentic. It features real girls with transparent behind-the-scenes footage to build an emotional, captivating connection with viewers. Since the people in the advertising care about the subject matter, the message is delivered with conviction.

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Let People See Themselves in the Company

Image via Flickr by Christopher Paquette

It may be tempting to view the trend toward diversity in advertising as political correctness. However, that perspective would be short-sighted. Rather, it is based on sound marketing principles that all too many corporations have been slow to adopt. Why bother using a wider variety of people in media and advertising? Quite simply, because we are more likely to identify with someone who looks like us. When we relate, we are more willing to spend money.

Identity embodies far more than appearances — though that is a distinct part of the equation — to include values, attitudes, and body language. To identify with a product, you must be able to envision yourself using it. It’s more difficult to do so when you can’t see yourself reflected in the advertising.

Dove sales leaped from $2.5 billion to $4 billion since the introduction of their Campaign for Real Beauty; likewise, sales from Getty Images’ Lean In Collection escalated 66 percent since February 2014.

Yet it isn’t just a gender issue. Companies that embrace other differences in their advertising, including disabilities and sexual orientation, also see an increase in sales. Entertainment journalist, pop culture and TV analyst, and public speaker Segun Oduolowu put it this way: “One of the largest groups with the largest disposable incomes is the gay and lesbian community. If you can corner any part of the market or can be seen as the champion of this group, you can carve out a sizeable part of income.”

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Show the Company Listens and Responds

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, loyal customers are worth 10 times as much as their first purchase. In a report by RightNow, an alarming 55 percent of respondents cited the reason for discontinuing business with a company as not having issues resolved in a timely manner. In other words, businesses should recognize when they make a mistake and then work quickly to rectify it.

In an attempt to humanize their brand, a large bridal retailer underwent an experiment to assess which way of apologizing to their clients would be most effective. With one group, they sent a $50 gift card as a means to apologize for an error. To the other group, they made a personal phone call. The group who received the phone call was twice as likely to buy from the brand again.

Having a personal connection, particularly in light of making a mistake, is crucial. Similarly, companies that make it public how they’ve responded to customer concerns find better results.

It’s important to note that such an approach won’t work for every company. Knowing what your customers want is the important thing.

Blinking lights and flashing colors may attract customers initially, but it takes something much more simple to draw customer loyalty: personalization. Humanizing your brand and building trust is the surest way to success.

About the author

Sylvia LeRahl

A professional writer, teacher, consultant and indie game designer for eight years, Sylvia has demonstrated experience writing hundreds of blogs, presentations, magazine articles, press releases and product descriptions. She writes for a variety of satisfied customers who rely on her SEO savvy and writing talent to increase readership and market materials.

Sylvia is a regular blog contributor, research professional and social media connoisseur who supports herself through freelance writing and running a small business. She holds an advanced degree in educational leadership and an undergraduate degree in English. In addition to being a writer, she recently served as a secondary teacher and the Director of Education & Special Needs at a large Head Start preschool program.

Sylvia's web and print publication credits include Parents Magazine, Ask.com, eBay, Staples, The Autism Site and The Knot. Additionally, she has authored over 2,000 blog posts, magazine articles, web pages, press releases and product descriptions for various online writing platforms.

Sylvia excels at writing articles that are thoroughly researched and entertaining. She makes technical material accessible to the average reader and seeks to find the human interest angle in most of her writing. She enjoys writing in a variety of niches, including law, education, parenting, games, health and travel.