The Rise of the Humans – Are we experiencing purpose overload?

In Agency Leaders, B2B Marketing, Client Club, Digital, Social Media by Admin User0 Comments

The latest East Midlands BMC talked truth, tribes, authenticity and humans in marketing

At the first BMC of 2019, the East Midlands contingent gathered at Accelerate Places in Nottinghamfor an evening of good food, booze and lively discussion. The evening’s exchange was kicked off by OpenWrks head of marketing and event organiser David Coghlan, who opened with the question ‘are we experiencing purpose overload in marketing?

Dave’s enthusiastic intro referenced Bloom’s Brand Ladder and explored the notion of ‘What is the meaning of the brand in our life?’. 

Giving examples of the Pepsi’s brand disaster and Gillette’s recent attempt to join the #MeToo movement, heavily slated by Mark Ritson, Dave pointed out that both brands have tried to move up the brand ladder but  used a purpose at odds with their product and positioning and as a result lost customers.

Positive purpose

To keep things on a positive note, Dave highlighted the one brand who seems to get hearts and minds right every time. Nike. With the recent Colin Kaepernick campaign they nailed it by making a narrative that resonates with the core principles of their brand. It also spoke specifically to Nike’s target audience, so even while there was some outrage online with people burning Nike shoes, that was an acceptable risk with non-core customers and actually strengthened the relationship with their core audience, thus making complete commercial sense.

How can B2B markets translate purpose and make it relevant in our marketing?

Our superhero marketing keynote, but sadly fragile human, Tim Elliotthad to whisper off due to a bout of laryngitis, but has promised us a blog and to return in full voice another time. Not to be disappointed for too long, as brand and language strategist Ben Afiastepped into the breach and gave an insightful and entertaining overview of how language reveals your truth, can unlock doors and make brands more human.

How not to communicate

Ben set the scene with a comical, if anxiety-inducing, series of communications received from a Swiss airline after a delayed flight and lost luggage. Texts from the airline did not inspire confidence that the situation was being resolved, neither did he get his luggage. The airline did not understand or empathise with the state of mind the customer in its communications – a common problem in marketing copy.

But how does this boil down to the everyday B2B marketer? Dave gave an example from his own company OpenWrks, sales deck, where they have self-appointed to address the ‘Biggest health risk in the UK today – Money’. OpenWrks are ‘laddering up’ what their business offer. Not just delivering “double boring” financial technology solutions, they are on a mission to help business and individuals change their lives by helping them understand what they can afford to save, invest, borrow, or repay. By focusing on purpose, OpenWrks and its sister business Tully, believe that the impact of what they do could benefit everyone in society. Harnessing ‘purpose’ into B2B marketing activity is an ongoing challenge but one that is bearing fruit initially.

Shit shovelling and long sentences

In several slides which we cannot be done justice here, Ben covered his time as ‘Chief Shit Shoveller’ at Pevensey Castle, William the Conqueror, French and AngloSaxon language and human evolution.

You had to be there…However, among his points were that humans have a distinctive language that defines us. As humans and language has developed we have adopted Latin and French words which are longer, more powerful and have more gravitas than simpler, shorter Anglo Saxon words. The former were historically the language of power, of law and authority and today are often used in business writing. As a result even today business language has a habit of being less accessible to most people, making things more complicated than necessary for the consumer.

Adopting the language of the tribe

According to Ben, language truly reveals what you believe about people, colleagues, clients. We cooperate and compete through language with our tribe. Adopting the language of the tribe is essential to creating communications that relate to people.

Even internal to a single company are different tribes, with HR, Marketing and IT all having a different ‘language’. Yet, even within the same profession there are inconsistencies in language. Citing examples of his work at Boots and being confused over shops and stores, Ben soon realised that you couldn’t ignore the nuances of language and assume people would understand.

“Individual choices of word can be crucial for understanding – the language that you use can tell you who is in and who is out. What tribe do we belong to and how do we want ourselves to fit into the world?” Ben Afia,

How can we use language to build trust?

Ben talked about how the internet and social media has changed how language is used in day to day life, with an increase in informality and a general decline in trust and attention span. Hardly surprising when a US survey suggests we get 10,000 brand message per day, other research shows we switch screen 21 times an hour and Microsoft reckon that we each have an 8 second attention span.

And yet, people are also crying out for authenticity, so brands using social purpose as part of their marketing will be found out if they are not true. There is a lot for B2B marketers to achieve and not a lot of time to do it and it can be very difficult to join up tone throughout all its different departments.

Being human in design

Next up to share design insights from start-up land, was lead designer at OpenWrks, Mary Harman. Starting her 15+ year career as a web designer, moving into UX and now focusing on product design, Mary ‘shares the space between marketers and product people’ and has gained many years experience designing for real human experiences.

During her time at OpenWrks, Mary has seen the customer landscape change from a transactional, B2B relationship with little regulation to a relationship based, heavily regulated, human to human approach. In response to this her approach to design is about tuning into cognitive processes to be able to develop online products that can interact with humans.

Covering three key stages in the cognitive design process; Attention, problem solving and decision making, Mary shared a number of drivers and phases that influence consumer behaviours. Establishing trust was key in building positive user experiences.

“The simplest way to test for humans – ask yourself does it feel weird or does it feel OK?!” Mary Howard, Lead Designer OpenWrks

Designing for humans

Mary agreed that in a data driven world, quantitative data is readily available and gives valuable insights, but believes that qualitative data and observing people in their environment is often more powerful. Advocating a process of discovery, immersion, connection and detachement for achieving empathy in design Mary said provides benefits including more ideas, faster design results, better resonance with users, advent of testing phases and improving team morale as you create a positive experience that customers ‘just get’.

Mary’s top tips include:

  • Being aware of cognitive processes– how many things are people considering at each stage?
  • Building trust through the process rather than the words or pictures– Trust develops over time, is never binary and can be lost much quicker than it is gained.
  • Being empathetic– Try to understand why people are behaving in a certain way and not being dismissive.
  • The rule of ‘Five user testing’– Testing with just 5 people can get you to 80% of major issues which unlocks the pace at which you can get direct feedback from customers to iterate and improve

How social media can be humanised to get better results

Mark Saxby, founder of Status Social rounded off the insightful session with a warning about robotic social media and the pitfalls of posting for the sake of it.

As one of the first specialist social media agencies in the UK, Mark and the Status Social team have achieved an impressive £1 million+ in sales from social campaigns for their clients and trained over 3,000 people to be more social savvy.

Mark wants to “Change the lives of everyone we come into contact with” and believes the human approach is the best approach. His clients buy from them based on the fact that they are human and they love their values, which come across on the company social media channels.

With a personal approach to social media campaigns, which included 160 tweets in a day to beer lovers, they increased ticket sales for a beer festival and filled the hotels around the venue. For a classic watch maker, they took a targeted approach to top London Architects to engage and interact in direct conversations.

“Businesses are finally realising that they need to take social media seriously to get results.

Managing Directors from a certain generation still don’t really understand social, but they need to be serious about it to get real results. Social media has an impact on how you are found and who will find you.” Mark Saxby, Founder Status Social

Making social more human

 Mark advocates being more human to achieve more sales. By being less robotic you will be more successful in social marketing. Creating a story on social channels to communicate your brand values and ethos is a great way to build trust. It is not always about leads, it’s about recruitment, building culture and showing the personality and ethics of your business.

Each post should have a strategy – think about what the value of the post is and what you are doing it for. Use hash tags and @ symbols sparingly, in a natural and authentic way. And, Mark concludes, don’t post poor quality content just for the sake of it.

Are we all just humans?

In summary, we began with the idea that the push for purpose is the Holy Grail. What does that mean for us as marketers? Isn’t it true that ‘people buy people’ and we are all trying to get down to a human level? No matter how far up the brand ladder you decide to move, ultimately business success is driven by a person understanding that what you offer can help them and then asking that person to help them achieve it. 

Regardless of whether you’re B2B or B2C it’s all H2H.

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