“As a general rule, everyone wants to be liked. Brands are no different because they’re created, represented and employed by people.” That was my Friday night take-away from the Turing Festival 2015, Edinburgh’s international technology festival.
For one weekend in Edinburgh, big hitters from across the technology industry share their inspirations, pet hates and hot tips on a range of topics. Friday was ‘full stack marketing’ day – from SEO to audience analysis and online behaviours. Headliners included Cyrus Shepard from Moz, Oli Gardner from Unbounce and Phil Nottingham from Wistia. The audience went wild when Rand Fishkin presented a ‘Whiteboard Friday’ especially for the festival.
With hundreds of tech-heads in one room, my expectation was impenetrable jargon and hours of discussion about algorithms and the merits of SEO. I was right – there was jargon, algorithm chat and SEO celebration, but dominating it all was the idea that the biggest challenge facing the communications industry is the need to ‘humanise’ brands and their digital presence. Sound familiar? “We humanise brands” has been Cello Signal’s tagline since 2014.
It’s not a new topic. Since computers started infiltrating customer services in the 1960s there’s been theorising that faceless industry puts off consumers. With every brand now competing for their piece of ‘digital space’, it’s never been more important to come across as honest, trustworthy and ‘real’ to customers.
The problem (and opportunity) for the comms industry is that so many businesses are doing it badly. Atrociously. Abominably. Unforgivably boringly. How often do you pointedly ignore Facebook posts from a sponsored brand that does nothing but switch you off?
Mark Johnstone from Distilled summed it up when he questioned “why will anyone care?” As communications consultants, it’s our job to take a step back, stop, play devil’s advocate and assess the psychology behind consumers’ experiences and perceptions of a brand and its messages. Without that research and assessment, there’s nothing to base a strategy on.
The inconvenience is that there isn’t a silver bullet. It takes time, effort and (usually) money to understand your customers; their likes, dislikes, behaviour, mood swings, passions, schedule and tolerance. It’s like they’re real people… because they are real people. To get a real person on your side takes time, effort and (usually) a bit of money.
It’s heart-warming to think that even in the most advanced technological age, we can still say the easiest way to build trust in a brand is by making people feel special and understood.
As a complete aside… thanks to the speakers at Turing Fest for an inspiring event. And to the guys at Codebase and Stipso for organising it.