Human Marketing – A How To Guide

What is Human Marketing?

I realised that although I have started a company called Human and talk to clients about how we can make them more human, I haven’t explained on my own website what human marketing is to me.

Yes, it is a bit of a buzz word along with ‘human-to-human’ and ‘human-centric-marketing’ and all that falafel, but there is a reason we are talking about it. In an age where we are overloaded with messages and advertising, it is more important now than ever to create something honest that doesn’t feel like you are trying to con someone out of their hard-earned cash. So, if you were to take just one thing away from this article, I would say that human marketing starts with being honest.

An example of Human Marketing

Let’s take your local coffee shop, your hairdresser or the person in the Supermarket you will choose on the till because you remembered they made you smile last time you came in.

They make you feel special because they make a human connection with you. When someone serving you coffee on the M40 looks at you like they look at wall when going for a pee, you don’t come away thinking, “YES, I’m going make sure I go back there some day!”

When you are treated like an individual, you have a nice chat, someone remembers something personal about you or they go out of their way for you, you immediately start to feel loyalty to that brand. It is the same reason I used to drive 60-70,000 miles a year just to visit all of my customers on a regular basis. All of these conversations could have been done over the phone, but I wanted them to know I was investing in them and that they were important to me.

How does Human Marketing translate into digital?

There are a number of ways being more human can work online. You don’t have to visit every single customer. It will vary by industry, but consider some of the following:

Facebook groups

Facebook is encouraging conversations to happen in groups over pages. The reason this is happening is that it sits at the core of the purpose of the platform. i.e. it is a social platform. When a brand creates a value-led online community it is far more likely to reach and engage with a big audience over a Facebook page that just tries to promote its products and services. Think about what kind of group people in your target audience would want to be part of and create it! Our Marketing Meetup Facebook group is a great example of this. Value first!

Surprise and delight

This one is so easy. It can be as simple as remembering someone’s birthday and sending them a card. I order lots of things from bike companies and some of them include a little packet of Haribo in the order. Now I don’t like Haribo at all, but I always feel good about that parcel arriving and a little something extra appearing that I wasn’t expecting. What could you do for your customers that cost almost nothing but will make them smile and feel good about you as a brand?


This is similar to the point above but building a service or offering around someone’s exact needs. When something feels personal to you it is both flattering and likely to drive loyalty. Maybe drop a hand written note in your next order or if you are B2B, produce a report about the last 12 months you’ve had working together highlighting the best bits and where you want to help them next year.

Honest content

This is one of my favourites because people find it so hard to do. When I made the film below, skip to 2:35 to see a genuine reaction of a client. We could have very easily asked the client to do a testimonial directly to the camera but instead, we decided to film her casually for the whole walk around both showhomes. Now you could argue that I’m only showing the very best bits, and you’d be right. However, this was genuinely a snapshot of the day, so I am confident it is a true reflection of what that business does.

Stock Images

Images can show exactly who you are as a business or they tell your customer you are hiding behind something. We’ve all seen and used stock images at some point in our life, but when they are really bad, blatant stock images as a consumer, you’ll start to wonder what the brand is trying to hide. Now I’m not a massive fan of my face, but would you rather see a picture of me on my website and have your expectations managed or see a picture from the following link? Then ask would make you trust me less and make a weaker connection? The worst kind of stock

Characteristics of a Human Brand

More companies are catching on but so many are frightened to make the change. Brands worry that they won’t look polished, that they will look stupid or that the effort it takes to be human isn’t worth the investment.

But that is the kind of company that is winning. Imagine going to a concert and the lead singer reading a script in between each song. No humour, no swearing, no mistakes, just an agreed message. It would be a bit…meh.

Here are some top characteristics for brands that are human:

Conversational – treat social platforms in a human way (See Innocent smoothie twitter account)

Personalised – see above

Problem-solving – usually requires a human!

Focused on high quality over massive volumes of rubbish

Can inject humour

Show’s empathy

Owns it’s mistakes

Tells great stories

How to become a more human business

In my opinion it starts with a mindset. Yes, your company stands for certain things and I totally appreciate you may have a CEO that is earning very well in a successful business who would argue, “Why rock the boat”. I get that. However, if you don’t change and adapt to new markets and techniques you’ll start to get left behind.


You can’t just have human marketing tactics. If you are really human on Twitter and your email and then drive people to a corporate landing page with aggressive sales messages and awful stock images, you are unlikely to convert. You strategy will need to include ‘being human’ at every level.

You may want to be known as a positive, fun and approachable brand in a stale, stiff industry. This may be your differentiator. If it is, how do you answer the phone, how do you keep in touch with current clients, how do you respond to a crisis, how do you talk to each other? And then there is the marketing; does your latest video reflect honestly who you are as a company and why have you created the video in the first place?!

So don’t just use being human as a tactic, it needs to be part of a strategy.

Focus on quality over volume

Brands are too focused on volume. How many followers, how many sales, how many… The question needs to be around quality. Yes, we all want to grow our businesses but I would much rather create content for 1000 people who were a fan of what I did than for 100,000 people who didn’t care.

Treat clients how you’d want to be treated

It is a bit obvious, but it amazes me how this doesn’t happen. People used to write thank you notes to me in my old company saying thanks for calling back when you said you would and turning up on time. Build this kind of service and discipline into your business, not because it makes it more efficient, but because you are dealing with people and emotions.

If someone writes a positive review for you, what can you do to say thanks? Maybe start by saying thanks and telling them how the comment made you feel!! Equally if someone writes a note to say your business has let them down, respond in a way that shows you care, not “thank you for your feedback, your comments have been logged and someone will be in touch shortly”


Accept that things won’t always appear polished.

Ensure the story and the strategy is at the centre of your efforts

Keep things personal to your audience and every time you market or interact on behalf of your brand

Think about the people you are talking to and how you’d like to be treated

Lose the corporate-buzz-wordy-jingo-lino-bollocks and just write stuff like it comes out of your mouth

And like I say to my beautiful children every day, “work hard, be nice to people and have fun”