Customers Want Your Brand to Be More Human: Here’s How


Share on LinkedIn

Humans have always had an innate obsession with other humans. This isn’t exactly strange or unique to the human species – after all, they say birds of a feather flock together – but it is interesting to recognize under the microscope of business-customer relationships.

3 Ways to Humanize Your Brand

Few things are more frustrating as a customer than feeling as if you’re unimportant or unheard. That’s why people hate calling 1-800 customer service hotlines so much. You call, navigate through seven or eight different automated prompts, speak to a Siri-like bot that doesn’t understand what you’re saying, and end up waiting on hold for an hour before you ever get speak a single word to an actual human being.

While companies need to use automated services like these in order to deal with the volume of interactions they have with customers, be very wary of letting this desire to streamline responsibilities spill over into other areas of customer service.

In order to be competitive in 2016 and beyond, you need to actively work on humanizing your brand. In today’s highly automated business landscape, it’s the businesses that appease the consumer demand for personal interactions that thrive.

With that being said, let’s review a few simple ways you can humanize your brand without hiring more people or drastically increasing your budget.

  1. Use Human Faces

The human brain is hardwired in such a way that it responds to human faces. This phenomenon is largely rooted in the fact that faces – especially those of our family – are the first and only things we see for the first few weeks of our lives as newborn babies.

“The brain has a specific circuit for recognizing faces called the fusiform gyrus, or the fusiform face area,” marketing expert Andrew Tate explains. This theory is backed up by a number of studies, including one conducted by researchers at Caltech. The study looked recorded the reactions of epilepsy patients when showed a series of faces of celebrities and other people the patient knew.

“When the electrodes were in the fusiform gyrus they recorded specific neural activity for these faces,” Tate says. “What was incredible about the cells responding to these faces was that they were highly specific.” So specific in fact that one patient had a neuron that only fired when shown a picture of Jennifer Aniston.

This indicates that brands should be using more human faces and less abstract imagery when positing images and developing marketing materials. The more customers are exposed to human elements, the more positive their subconscious reactions will become.

  1. Utilize Mannequins in Retail Displays

In brick and mortar environments, one of the best ways to connect with customers is by using mannequins as part of retail displays. Mannequins have been around for years and have actually improved quite a bit over time. Whereas they used to be rather lifeless in their appearance, some of today’s mannequins are so real that customers end up doing double-takes.

Over the past couple of years, leading retailers have improved their mannequin efforts in an attempt to combat the competition they face from ecommerce.

According to George Anderson of RetailWire, “The reason for the change at stores including American Apparel, David’s Bridal and Saks Fifth Avenue is that retailers believe more realistic looking mannequins give shoppers a better idea of what a given garment will look like on them, something they probably are not getting while shopping online.”

  1. Try Your Hand at Emojis

By now, most of us are pretty familiar with those playful little icons tucked away on our smartphone keyboards. Known as emojis or emoticons, these cartoon characters are able to sometimes convey what the written word cannot. And according to one recent study, looking at these faces can actually trigger the same facial recognition responses in the brain that are set off when we see images of other humans.

“There is no innate neural response to emoticons that babies are born with. Before 1982 there would be no reason that ‘:-)’ would activate face sensitive areas of the cortex but now it does because we’ve learnt that this represents a face,” researcher Owen Churches says. “This is an entirely culturally-created neural response. It’s really quite amazing.”

For businesses that invest a lot of time into social media, SMS, and other forms of digital marketing, it may be worth looking into how you can utilize emojis. You don’t want to overdo it, but some subtle touches may prove to be highly effective.

Build Lasting Connections

It’s virtually impossible to grow your business over time without putting the customer first. While there are plenty of tools and services that allow you to streamline aspects of marketing and customer service, be wary of letting these resources overtake your entire business model. The only way to build a profitable business is by humanizing your brand and developing lasting connections with your customer base.

Larry Alton
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


  1. How about actually making a company’s humans, i.e. their employees, more front and center as a brand asset. Some companies have done very well with this concept of employee ambassadors, and everyday more are adopting the concept.:


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here