Marketing, at its core, is a type of relationship. And just like any personal relationship, whether platonic or romantic, it cannot prosper without understanding the human beings involved.
While a textbook is unlikely to compare them, there is no denying the similarities that exist. Relationships require communication, understanding, and honesty among both parties. Similarly, marketing involves communication between an organization and its core audience, the need to understand what a consumer is looking for, and honesty from both parties.
Both forms of relationships also require recognizing the individuality and humanity of each person involved.
As identified by THuS Marketing + Branding President, Nona Phinn, who coined the phrase ‘The Human Side of Marketing,’ marketing is simply the platform and communication channel that allows an organization to present itself to human beings. Phinn emphasized the importance of always remembering that “no matter your reason for being in business, no matter the kind of business you're in, you're serving human beings.”
The human side of marketing calls for you to understand the individual behind the data, the cause behind the sales, and the importance of your target audience.
Marketing to Humanity
To market well and to market accurately, you need to have someone that you are marketing to.
The human side of marketing challenges you to start your relationship with your audience by researching and being able to infer who they are. This is the step that comes first.
Let’s examine a buzz word for a moment. The word persona is a word us marketers like to toss around to mesmerize our peers and colleagues. Simply put, it is the sum or total makeup of characteristics presented by a person. Your persona is how you are viewed by others. The rest of the world who are not marketers call it a personality.
The reason this term matters so much to us nerds who promote products and services is that we know to do so well, we have to have an awareness of how our audience will receive and respond to our actions. How is this different from any other human relationship? It’s not. Literally, the word person is embedded in persona.
The inability to understand how your audience feels about your brand equals the inability to relate to them. By default, you cannot provide a service or product that your audience will purchase if you are unable to communicate with them in a manner that matters most to them. The only way to do so is to know them inside and out.
Looking Past the Numbers
As you continually research and focus on your audience, you will recognize how valuable data is. Collecting statistics, social media likes, demographics, and the like are all vital to a company's success. However, the story the numbers tell goes beyond the charts and graphs used to plot them.
The human side of marketing is vital in how it recognizes data for what it really is and what it stands for: real people and their narratives. In a digital and data-driven society, companies have no reason not to hear the voices of their clientele.
While it is true that no business, firm, nonprofit, or organization will ever be able to talk to all of their constituents, collecting and analyzing data gives you the chance to listen to what your customer is indirectly telling you. Even when they cannot see you or speak to you, your audience is always sharing with you what they want and who they are.
Similar to your personal relationships, the human side of marketing requires you to speak and listen. No matter where it comes from, every detail of a relationship is vital. In this digital age, it falls on marketers to recognize that behind each like, retweet, and comment there is a person trying to convey their thoughts, perception, and feelings.
Listening Pays Off
Recognizing your target audience as humans, rather than just data points, promotes an environment for successful marketing. In knowing what your customer has directly and indirectly stated, companies are able to make products and services that fit their needs and communicate so that their audience will hear them.
While this process may take time, Phinn discussed how placing a focus on the human side of marketing is what allows “great organizations” to succeed because they are producing something that is “fulfilling a need.”
At all levels, successful marketing begins with knowing your target audience. This leads to a domino effect where you are able to market directly to them, grab their attention, and allow a connection to be formed with your organization.
As the cycle continues, the knowledge you gain will help you comprehend the growth and change in your audience — leading to a relationship that is forever nurtured and developed. As your audience changes, your job is to be in front of that change and evolve with them. Again, no different than our everyday relationships.
Phinn’s firm THuS Marketing + Branding strives to stay true to the vision and values behind the human side of marketing in all that they do. When they approach marketing they look for the human need. “We believe wholeheartedly that transactions can be easily canceled, but relationships must be severed in order to be destroyed. Make it hard for your audience to break up with you,” said Phinn