Being More Human in Our Marketing in 2020

Being more human in our marketing requires work and creativity. It also begs for time and patience to achieve results, and can be difficult to scale. If that sounds like a step backwards, or counter intuitive to all the tech related capabilities that marketing offers right now, you need to be patient and consider your customer’s environment.  In actual fact “being more human” is a very authentic response to the overwhelm that digital online capabilities, automation and data driven AI has made possible. It’s also a way to stand out, and soon it will one of the few reliable ways to nurture customer relationships.

Why is that Mary? Google recently announced that it will be fading out third party use of cookies on its Chrome browser over the next two years. Apple, Firefox and others quickly followed suit. This is in response to European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). But both of these laws address the push back from consumers about personal data collection and how it is being used by companies for profit. While cookies can ensure a more personalized user experience, they also freak people out as they realize how their data is being used for retargeting, in the process of providing a more customized experience. Predictably, the advertising industry screamed foul and ran out of the room with their hair on fire. But the writing is on the wall that much stricter data protection is coming, it’s just that legislation is not keeping up with technology and innovation in the short term.

While there will be shifts and evolving opportunities with tech driven marketing, at the end of the day, good old-fashioned marketing, based on relationships will always prevail. As regulations around data use catch up, the companies that don’t rely solely on its use to scale marketing, and instead nurture emotional relationships with customers will be well positioned in 2020.

2020 Trend #4: We will need to be more human in our marketing

Great marketing creates customers, but great experiences create fans. At the heart of great experiences is the human touch, being creative and being personable. Let’s take a look at some specific actions you might want to consider to “be more human.” Let’s look at some strategies and tactics:

1. Make the normal abnormal and memorable

One tactic might be to look at all your customer touch points, write down what is “normal” and then brainstorm how things could done differently.

While most of us pay passive attention at best during those flight safety drills, Westjet decided to turn the announcement into a comedy skit on some flights. There are countless customer filmed and posted examples on Youtube, but here is one with over 16 million views: HILARIOUS FLIGHT ATTENDANT ANNOUNCEMENT. You can’t buy that kind of good will or exposure for free. If your customers are expecting a spoken announcement, why not have someone sing it? If students normally receive a formal letter of acceptance to university, why not have it explode with confetti when opened?

Touch point experiences that surprise and delight get talked about both online and off. And if it’s something memorable where customers take out their phone to record and share it, all the better.

2. Create customer delight

At the heart of being more human is focusing everything on customer experiences and creating customer delight – then letting those raving fans do your marketing for you. This is a major shift since it demands that marketing through customer experiences extend well beyond the walls of the traditional “marketing department” where messaging could be purchased and controlled.

Start by walking through all possible customer interactions with your business – searching, browsing, inquiring, delivery, purchase, returns. Consider online and offline interactions. Observe any “friction points” where processes could be made easier, faster, customized, or seamless. Consider how competitor practices in these areas may have been accepted as “the industry norm”. Be relentless and creative with your ideas of how to make the customer experience outstanding. If there is push back about cost, consider the free promotional gain and word of mouth good will that will result from customers doing your marketing for you. It’s this kind of thinking that extends marketing beyond the walls of the marketing department, and it’s the way of the future.

3. Show people behind your business or brand

Humanizing things also means showing the people behind your business. Casual, informal content goes a long way and Stories on Instagram and Facebook can be great for this. Video, and especially “live video” can add an incredible humanizing dimension if used to show behind the scenes stuff, people who work there. Think fun and informal, not polished and pitched.

4. Use email properly

Never under estimate the power of email in the bid for humanizing and personalization. The key of course is to have been invited in, and to be offering value. Writing like you speak, and sounding like a real person, not a corporate robot pushing product all the time is key. Gary Vaynerchuk, a pretty prolific social media content creator, just recently revamped his weekly email newsletter and points to it as a huge piece of his media strategy. Gary’s F-bomb littered marketing insights aren’t for everyone, but you can certainly see his verbal style come out in the writing. He totally gets how to be authentic and real. Pat Flynn, from Smart Passive Income, and Michael Stelzner from Social Media Marketing World, have also recently invested heavily to continue their personalized email communications. And other leaders like Chris Brogan, one of the original email advocates, is now being rediscovered by those previously enamored with single social media platforms. Selling selectively by email might be fine, but it needs to be personalized, and you really do need to consider the point in the consumer journey someone is at. Plus where’s your relationship with them? If you’re on a first date, or still getting to know each other, slapping them with a marriage proposal would seem out of line. Yet email marketers do it all the time – playing a funnels and numbers game. In an era of “being more human” that kind of behavior needs to stop. One example of selling effectively is Easyjet out of the UK. They did an email campaign using customer travel history, and built personalized stories that suggested future travel. They reported 25% higher click through rates with just some simple personalization.

5. Live events

Live events with an online fan base is another way to humanize your brand. Events create experiences for a fan base to share in. There’s something magical about creating an environment where fans as “members of your tribe” have an opportunity to meet. Quite simply, live events strengthen brands in an era where being more human counts. Yeti coolers is a great example.  They have a film tour  and regularly organize events on their Facebook page for fans to participate in. Camping, fishing, boating and outdoors events as well as adventure film screenings feature prominently.

6. Rely less on social media and more on voice and print

Hey, remember that thing called a phone? It’s actually useful for talking to people. Sometimes just the sound of a voice instead of an email is enough to make a personal connection of meaning. And when the email box is full and the mailbox is empty, perhaps something handwritten in the post might be a way to not only stand out, but be more human. When’s the last time you read a hand-written letter delivered by mail?

If you haven’t read MARKETING REBELLION by Mark Schaefer, it’s a great read. Mark digs into this topic from a variety of directions. If you’re curious, I did a review of this book last year on Youtube.




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Mary Charleson


  1. Hi Mary, this is Teresita taking a break from marking exams. It is heartening to note from your article that nurturing emotional relationships is now considered as one of the best marketing strategies, Come to think of it, as teachers we are also doing marketing. Failure to do effective marketing of knowledge results into little learning or no learning at all.

    Insights from this article are greatly appreciated!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Teresita. I’ve been on the “be more human” and view customer interaction and delight as part of marketing, for some time now. Adapting to our new reality with the impacts of Covid-19, just magnifies it even more. Feel free to share the post with others. Marketers and business in general are struggling to adjust their approach right now. The reality is, many were made irrelevant overnight, at least in the short term. But as my article points out, there is hope for those that can view things from their customers perspective, tap their core competencies, and redirect their ability to meet customers “where they are right now” with their current needs. Thanks for chiming in, and being part of the community that cares.

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