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Shoring up your marketing strategy in turbulent times and the role of brand humanity

The kind of communications that serve brands best when they talk with their customers are those rooted in human experience

“Try to be helpful, try to be human, try to be empathetic,” says Braze GM and VP success EMEA, James Manderson, on how brands can respond to the ongoing pandemic.

In an interview with The Drum associate editor, Sonoo Singh, during The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, Manderson spoke about the importance of cultivating a sense of humanity in marketing, informed by the insights from the Braze Brand Humanity Index research, conducted by Forrester Consulting. The Brand Humanity Index (BHI) identifies what emotional and functional attributes make a brand feel human to consumers as well as the business impact of exhibiting that brand humanity.

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Empathy: the key to cracking what consumers want

“The kind of communications that serve brands best when they talk with their customers are those rooted in human experience,” he reveals.

Brands that build human connection into their marketing strategy can enjoy better resonance with their customers, according to the BHI. “We found that consumers of brands that had really important bottom line impacts were nearly two times more likely to make a purchase and two times more likely to recommend the brand,” says Manderson.

“Around 65% were more loyal to brands that they felt a human connection with.”

At a time when brand personalisation and relevancy can feel unsuitable, he suggests looking into the common drivers that connect customers. For brands this includes speaking directly to their consumer base through communications that feel relatable; understanding what their consumers want and care about; and responding to consumers when they need it most.

“Real time streaming-type technologies, like Braze, can consume information and act on it in a matter of seconds and they can be automated at scale,” says Manderson. Doing this will free up team time, he explained, so that manpower can be invested in other sides of the business such as through live conversations.

Treat data with care to make it meaningful for consumers

Businesses and entire industries have had to be incredibly agile in response to these contextual changes, particularly if they operate across different countries. With government lock downs and new rules to contend with, combined with a heightened need from customers, “teams have had to quickly pivot and rank communications across channels on crucial messaging,” says Manderson. “Companies have invested even more time than usual to make sure the data moves quickly.”

Putting the emphasis on data can help a business to act more dynamically – “We've seen instances of engagement with messaging go up five times for certain brands during this time,” he adds.

Of course, smaller companies can adapt their use of data more easily. He adds, “Right now, it's important for people to be useful. More established brands need to cut out a lot of the noise, then they can overcome some of those larger systemic challenges that come from being more established to remain connected to their consumers.”

How are different verticals coping?

Travel has been a market that has been deeply affected by the pandemic, but Manderson admits: “We’ve seen messages around real hope and aspiration emerge from that industry. It's a challenging space right now, but these businesses are leveraging their brand’s voice to provide content that's educational and engaging; that’s acknowledging the realities of the situation and being empathetic to consumers. That’s got really good traction. We're all on lockdown, so providing useful educational value is good.”

Data can also be used more smartly during these times to reflect the availability of services and respond to customer queries more quickly. “People can leverage real data and be really personal, really targeted,” he says. “But we’re also seeing some people just pay close attention to the current contextual changes and move quickly with that. For some brands, that may require a more manual and less data driven process.”

Manderson concludes that the big trends the Braze team are noticing now aren’t too dissimilar from those that emerged in the Brand Humanity Index in previous years. “We were trending in the direction of people looking for surety and comfort. The shine and the razzmatazz seemed to be less top of mind for consumers than it was in the past.” His message to brands is that to be more effective and human, they need to converse with people in a manner that stimulates their emotions, especially in the midst of a crisis.

Watch the full session here

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