Brand humanization. Towards an increased personification of brands.

Brand humanization. Towards an increased personification of brands.

The celestial space

In the past, brands were somehow sitting out on their own. Like Gods living in a celestial space, they were communicating top down to the people on earth. Through a well proven linear model they were completely free to decide what to say and how to say it. They were buying extensive media space and shouting their message loudly to consumers. Within this context they were able to establish and to benefit from a kind of undisputable trust. A big brand in the past was, somehow by definition, of superior quality and earning respect. Consumers were rarely questioning this and brands were left to thrive on their own.

A changing paradigm

But, in recent years, trust in brands started to erode and the paradigm behind it started to change substantially. Trust has stopped being a stock preserved in the company offices or something completely delegated by consumers. It started to become a much more ongoing and interactive matter with brands having to continually prove, in a detailed and rapid manner when requested, why they could deserve consumer trust. This has obliged brands to open up to a much more articulated dialogue. They are no longer in the position to decide what and how to tell their stories, but they need to adapt their communication to the reality around them. And of course, technology has provided a strong element of empowerment.

A more human perspective

This new paradigm is making brands more human as they need to interact and prove continually that they deserve the trust of the consumer.
But this personification affects also the way brands talk. From using a single language through traditional media, now brands must talk many more languages, showing various aspects of themselves to different people on separate occasions. They have become multifaceted by definition and need to learn how to talk even at an individual consumer level. Exactly like human beings who are maintaining different relationships with different people by using different content, tone of voice, mood…

Taking a stand

Also, brands are increasingly expected to express a position on social, and even on political, topics. In the original holy space, they were somehow detached from reality and they were being careful not to come too close to the real world keeping a certain degree of magic (think about emotional communication in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s).
Now they are expected to express points of view or, even more, take a clear stand on different topics just as any other citizen would do. 57% of global consumers claim that they are buying, or boycotting brands based on their position on a social or political issue (1). In the last 3 years this percentage has increased by 30% (1). Also, not taking a stand, is no longer an option. Half of the global consumers can be defined as ‘belief driven buyers’ and 65% of those stopped buying a brand solely because it remained silent on a controversial societal or political issue that they believed it had an obligation to publicly address (1).

Personification and governing complexity

There has been considerable discussion in recent years about ‘brand humanization’ and what this could mean. What we see is that a brand becomes more like a person as:

  • it has to speak many more languages and show many more faces – just as an individual would normally do
  • increasingly it has to express opinions on what is happening in society – just as increasingly more individuals are doing.

This proliferation of languages and messages must be properly governed to maintain the brand equity and integrity (and avoid schizophrenia). This is the challenge for most brand owners but, if properly addressed, is opening up new spaces and opportunities to ensure long term performance growth.



(1) Beyond No Brand’s Land, Edelman, June 2017, Global.