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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

16 ways businesses can “humanize” their brands (no matter what they sell)

Today’s consumers want to engage with the human beings behind a brand, not faceless corporations.

16 ways businesses can “humanize” their brands (no matter what they sell)
Members of Fast Company Executive Board share their expert insights. [Image: Courtesy of the individual members.]
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“People buy from people.” It’s an adage that has never been more true than it is in today’s digital age.

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The online economy places near unlimited options at consumers’ fingertips. Even so, people crave real connections and a personal touch in their customer experience. Businesses must develop ways to reach people on a human level to convert online connections into sales.

Both B2C and B2B companies will see better results if they’re able to show the human beings who drive their brands. Below, 16 members of Fast Company Executive Board discuss ways business leaders can humanize their brands, no matter what product or service they sell.

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR “WHY.”

There are so many things that brands can do to humanize themselves. The ones that truly understand their “why” find ways to do this all the time. From a digital marketing standpoint, one of the easiest ways to do this is to relinquish control when working with influencers to let your brand story be told through your customers in an authentic and credible way. – Jessica Thorpe, gen.video

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2. TELL A COMPELLING STORY.

There are typically many competitors offering a similar product or service within an industry. By sharing a compelling, truthful, and relatable story that the typical buyer can connect with, a business can communicate its ethos and attract buyers that relate to the story. I think the key in today’s world is to ensure the story avoids polarization. – Fehzan Ali, Adcend Media LLC

3. DOUBLE DOWN ON YOUR VALUES.

Values should play a key role in your decision-making, from hiring, to employee growth plans, to choosing organizations to partner with, to deciding on work to execute. As one of my directors said, “We can’t work on goals until we know what we stand for.” Take that to heart. Our products and services should reflect who we are and the legacies we wish to leave in the world. – Charles Rath, Resilient Solutions 21

4. PRIORITIZE TRANSPARENCY.

Use transparency as a differentiator by connecting with people in a more real way. Let people see who you are by showing them that you’re a transparent brand, run by real people with an authentic voice. When customers can see how a brand operates, its values, and its people, they’re more likely to feel the emotional connection required to close the deal. – Becca Chambers, Ivanti

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5. CREATE AN EXPERIENCE.

Disney parks are some of the most successful retail malls around, but no one thinks of them as malls because Walt Disney put the experience first. Fast forward to the Universal Harry Potter franchise deal, and suddenly a Coca Cola becomes a Butter Beer. If you don’t create an experience, you are merely a product or service—but people buy experiences. – Duncan Wardle, iD8 & innov8

6. MEET FACE-TO-FACE.

Meeting face-to-face has always been a good practice but is now more so than ever before. With traveling getting back to normal, why not get on a plane or in your car and go visit some of your best clients and prospects face-to-face? Ditch the Zoom calls and make an intentional effort to build that face-to-face human connection that hasn’t been there over the past year. There’s no better way to humanize a brand than this. – Eric Schurke, Moneypenny

7. INJECT SOME PERSONALITY INTO YOUR MESSAGING.

The biggest opportunity for your business to humanize its brand is to inject the personality and culture of the organization into the messages you share. You’re not just selling a product or service; you’re building a relationship with customers and prospects across multiple touchpoints. Don’t be afraid to add the human touch. – Jason VandeBoom, ActiveCampaign

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8. “GEEK OUT” ABOUT SOMETHING WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS.

Some people collect wine; I collect chocolate—rare, exotic, single-origin craft chocolate. And we give it and share it every chance we get. Most people’s memories of me and my business involve chocolate and telling stories about it—I call it “the chocolate secret.” Who doesn’t love chocolate? Pick something you “geek out” about and turn it into a conversation starter. – Michael Margolis, Storied

9. SEND PERSONALIZED COMMUNICATIONS.

Connect with your target audience. Include personalized cards, such as a thank-you note, with your products or services. Prioritize follow-up communication such as phone calls or emails. Find out how the customer is doing with the product or service they’ve received. The business-to-consumer relationship doesn’t end at the point of sale; continued communication is necessary for a real connection. – John Hall, Calendar

10. DITCH THE BUSINESS BUZZWORDS.

Get rid of the jargon and internal buzzwords you use to talk about your business. One way to help ensure you do that is to listen to the copy in your communications. Download a free app that allows you to enter your narrative and have it spoken back to you. It’s a simple step that can be amazingly helpful. – Amy Radin, Pragmatic Innovation Partners LLC

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11. CONSIDER THE EMOTIONS OF YOUR BUYER EXPERIENCE.

If your experience is memorable—if it generates emotion in your clients and connects with them on a personal level—then you’ll have built a successful brand. Make sure you’re on top of the whole experience. It’s not just about selling, it’s about what happens next—how your clients feel after buying your product or service and whether they’d do it again. Make them fall in love with your brand. – Nicolas Susco, (ea) ElipseAgency

12. SHOW THE HUMANS BEHIND THE BRAND.

The easy way to humanize a brand is to show the humans behind the brand. It’s not just featuring the face of the founder; showcase the people who work with and for your customers. Tell employee stories. Share their insights. While you’re at it, ditch self-serving case studies and tell real customer stories. Your employees and customers are the people who matter most to your business. Market them. – Jonathan Ronzio, Trainual

13. HAVE EMPLOYEES TELL THEIR PERSONAL STORIES

From an HR perspective, the best way to humanize a business is to help employees tell their personal stories and connect them to the overall employer brand. This has a mutually reinforcing effect: Customers want to buy from a company that employs people who look and sound like them, and employees will be more forthright about why they love the company, its mission, and its values. – Yuri Kruman, HR, Talent & Systems Consulting

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14. ENGAGE THROUGH VIDEO.

The data is clear that customers engage with video and feel connected to a company through video. Consistently telling stories about the origin of the brand and sharing the stories of people throughout the company on social media and your website is a good start. It’s even better if these stories engage the emotions of the customer, making them feel heard and appreciated. – Marie Zimenoff, Career Thought Leaders

15. ESTABLISH A PERSONAL SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE.

Social media can be a platform for authentic self-expression and for founders to share their interests, passion, and life outside of work. Establishing your own personal social media presence also allows you to develop a deeper personal connection with your customers, which is key to achieving brand longevity. – Kelley Higney, Bug Bite Thing

16. CUSTOMIZE SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS.

Every brand can be humanized, and it all relates to the delivery, not the content or product. There must be a story—a transfer of emotion between the business and its customer base—to humanize the transaction. An easy way to do this is through customizing solutions or products to the individual customer’s needs. Businesses need to solve distinct problems for people, not sell widgets. – Benjamin Nader, 6 Figure Recruiter