What Does It Really Take to Put More "Human" Into Your Brand?


There’s no doubt that as people and as consumers, we are much more comfortable interacting with humans than we are with businesses. This fact has pushed so many startups into trying to make their businesses more likable, more familiar, and ultimately more human. It’s not exactly a simple idea to turn into practice—and it will take a real twist in thinking to get there in the right way.  

If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to start by understanding what exactly the difference is between human to human and human to business interaction. In other words, what do we do as humans that’s so appealing when we interact with one another?

There are many obvious and immediate answers to that question, and they all begin with the assumptions we make about companies—distant and cold conglomerates only motivated by the amount of profit they can extract. Naturally, we take the opposite position for what is human. Warm, open, and absent these same kinds of ulterior motives.

But there’s very limited utility in those sharp distinctions. In reality, most businesses these days—and especially startups—are quite a bit more like people than we might like to believe. People are also a lot more like businesses too in that they are motivated by their own progress and growth.

No one would ever say that you’re going to get very far from a marketing standpoint by treating humans more like businesses, but it might seriously be worth considering the idea that breaking down these barriers and these stereotypes might actually be a good thing after all.

What do we normally say when we talk about a more human brand? We say that it’s a brand tapped into emotion and into struggle. Without even trying to fit a square peg into a circular hole, that sounds a hell of a lot like a startup to me.

So perhaps the key is to stop trying so hard to be human. Perhaps every business would be better off embracing what they already are. A network of humanity devoted to the purpose of personal and communal progress and change. A team struggling to push past their boundaries and create something valuable—something that could make other people’s lives better.

We’ve done so much mental gymnastics trying to turn a business into a human, and the truth is that none of it may have even be necessary or useful. Startups are already there. Startups are already human. It’s time to start telling that story instead of pretending to be something you’re not.

Chances are that you’re much better off showing your business for what it is than hiding behind some kind of carefully constructed persona. People will be naturally engaged by the struggle of the startup than whatever idealized image is sitting in front of it. They see those same struggles in their own lives every single day. There’s far more empathy to be found there than a pretty picture of what being human is “supposed” to mean.

So basically stop trying so hard to make your business human. Start looking inside for proof rather than some secret formula on the outside. All that you need to be relatable and powerfully motivational exists in the people and the purpose that you already have. Embrace that and people will notice and they will care.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment