Create a humanity-centred brand strategy

Karyn Furstman

It’s safe to say a lot has happened in the past eighteen months. Many marketing and customer experience (CX) leaders have risen to the challenge by turning an unpredictable moment into a movement. But as consumer and business expectations continue to evolve, you’ll need new ways to navigate the unpredictable. How can you lean into humanity to make the most of this moment? Read on to find out.

When you think back to the first few months of the pandemic, what do you remember? You might recall how the world seemed to slow. With a collective feeling of uncertainty about the future and the normal pace of life disrupted, people felt united against the same challenge. Communities and individuals supported each other through times of isolation and sickness, and they collectively recognised health care and essential workers for their efforts. Out of shifting priorities and needs has emerged a new, powerful shared sense of humanity.

As the outlook has shifted at the individual and community level, people have come to desire a new degree of empathy and transparency from brands, too. More than ever before, people see brands as human – after all, businesses have been impacted by the pandemic just like the rest of the world. Along with this new view is an expectation of brands that mirrors what people have experienced in their own lives: a desire for empathy, transparency, and purpose.

While customers have begun to expect more from brands over the last eighteen months, brands have had constraints, too. Some have needed to shift business practices to meet new demands, like improved physical store safety or accommodation of increased sales. And for their part, customers have been understanding of the changes – often even welcoming them. While some of these new ways of business will shift again over time, many are here to stay. ‘Business as usual’ is now a thing of the past.

So where do you go from here? Many of the marketing and CX leaders we spoke to in our research agree that humanity is the best approach. Here’s their perspective and how you can put humanity into practice.

A human-centred approach to marketing and CX strategy

Businesses and organisations were – and still are – being forced to make quick decisions, weigh competing priorities, and navigate forward in a way that balances the expectations and desires of their customers with business goals and needs. To do it successfully requires focused attention, meaningful effort, and a deep understanding of the customer. In other words: Humanity.

To integrate a human-centred approach into brand strategy, leaders are challenged to find a balance between delivering on business needs and authentically connecting with their customers. One executive we talked to remarked on the continued need for empathy, adding that ‘the customer does not always need their problem solved. They need to be heard and understood.’

In addition to balancing competing priorities, another theme that emerged from our research is purpose. Today, being a purpose-driven brand is an expectation, not an option. As a result, it is no longer enough to simply make a product, deliver a service, or provide an experience – leading brands understand the need to have a clearly defined purpose that is embodied in each customer touchpoint and throughout every facet of the organisation. What’s more, purpose often serves as a uniting force for customers, employers, partners, and stakeholders alike.

Executives clearly recognise that business issues and human issues are intertwined – 70% of CMOs and CX leaders are prioritising purpose-led initiatives once technology needs are met, and 63% are focused on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. In taking a human-centred approach, brands understand that it’s critical to exemplify their purpose, support social good, and demonstrate empathy for the customer and employee through their actions.

How can you foster an authentic, purpose-driven brand?

There are many ways to bring an authentic, purpose-driven brand to life. A customer experience management (CXM) framework is one approach. This type of framework leverages an outside-in customer view to develop, enable, and govern organisational strategies. When done right, a CXM framework can serve as the backbone of a human-centred brand strategy.

Curious where to begin? Start by identifying the moments that matter most to your customers. What’s important to them along each step of their journey? Then you can dive deep into the people, processes, and technologies that enable those moments, and assess their corresponding revenue levers. To deliver this broadly requires a deep understanding of perceptions, sentiments, and behaviours across customer ecosystems and journeys delivered by teams throughout your business.   

With a well-developed CXM framework in place, brands can create, re-develop, or reaffirm their overarching brand strategy, ensuring that leaders are well equipped to balance business needs with customer expectations and perception, prioritise purpose-led projects and initiatives, and turn insights into actions – ultimately paving the way toward a culture that puts humanity first.