Major multinational corporations can get away with branding that is impersonal and institutional. But even mega corporations like Ford and General Electric try to humanize their branding in their marketing. That’s because people connect more genuinely with a business when it has a human face or they can relate to it personally.
For a small business owner, humanizing your branding strategy isn’t just the best approach … it’s your only approach. Most small businesses aren’t big enough to ignore people on a one-on-one basis. And why would they? Making personal connections with customers is the name of the game for small business standards.
Here then are five fast, simple and easy ways to humanize the branding strategy for your small business so you can make more genuine and permanent connections with the real people in your community.
The nuclear family is still the prevailing cultural micro-structure in US society. People immediately recognize and are familiar with the concept of family: Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and extended family.
Think of ways to incorporate your own family into your branding. This is especially beneficial if your business features your family’s name. An easy way to connect with customers is to focus on the story behind the name: If it’s a family business, who founded the company, how did the rest of the family participate, and which family members are still running the business today.
People instinctively connect with the concept of family. So incorporating your family’s personal history as it relates to your business is often the easiest shortcut to making genuine and permanent connections with your customer base.
It’s a proven psychological fact that people love hearing their own names. There is something reassuring about being recognized when you interact with a small business – whether it is in person, over the phone, or even online.
Develop programs to recognize your customers. Typically, this will include some way of capturing every customer’s name, such as instructing your clerks to get each customer’s name from their credit card or identification card and then use their name at least once during the one on one interaction.
In online interactions, this is actually a lot easier. Customers usually are happy to give you their name as well as other information such as their email address, phone number, home address, and even birthday when filling out online forms. Use your auto-responder or other software tools to capture this information. Then use it with every online interaction to personalize the customer service experience.
Another effective way to humanize your brand and build interpersonal connections with your customers is through rewards programs. These can be incentive programs that reward customers for making multiple visits to your business – such as punch cards or special discounts.
Birthdays are another great way to create a personal connection with customers. Send a birthday card to your customers through the mail, online, or both. Include a coupon for a free reward or a special discount in recognition of their birthday and you can gain their loyalty all year long.
‘Give the People What They Want’
The great 19th Century promoter P.T. Barnum famously said, “Give the people what they want and they will always come back for more.” The same concept holds true today as it did more than 100 years ago.
People have near-universal emotional responses to certain concepts and images. As we already have mentioned, family is one. But others include puppy dogs, babies, weddings, fields full of flowers, and an endless array of other things that have made up the backbone of the American advertising world since Barnum was still selling circus tickets.
Sex is another one. If it’s appropriate for your business, incorporating sexually charged images – if not sexually suggestive – is an easy way to 1.) Get attention and 2.) Attract more customers. While sex is something you have to be careful with – there is a very fine line between being sexy and being offensive – it’s such an emotionally charged issue that it will always be a mainstay of marketing programs from now until the end of time.
Be Consistently Consistent
Another way to humanize your marketing and branding is to appeal to the human desire for consistency. People like things to be the same way every time. That’s part of the reason the McDonald’s fast food franchise has been so successful. You can walk into a McDonald’s in midtown Manhattan and another one in Tampa, Florida, or San Jose, California, and you will get the same experience: The same customer service, the same food, the same décor, even the same aromas.
To humanize your branding, look for ways to provide consistency in every aspect of your business – from the customer service experience to the marketing.