9 Ways to Be More Human in Your Marketing

April 20, 2020

The concept of ‘human marketing’ is having a moment right now, and we are totally here for it.

Human marketing (AKA human-centered marketing, AKA human-to-human marketing) is exactly what it sounds like: marketing that feels like it’s coming from a human and treats its audience like the humans they are. 

And while the idea has been gaining traction over the past few years, it’s become an imperative in the Coronavirus era. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. This is a time for empathy, and it’s really hard to empathize with your audience as a nameless, faceless entity. Even if you try, nobody is buying it. 
  2. People are overwhelmed by the amount of information flying at them from their friends, family, social media circles, employers—not to mention the media. Brands are much more likely to break through that noise if they are likable, trustworthy and have a unique voice and POV (in other words, exhibit human traits).
  3. In good times and bad (but especially bad), it’s far easier to reach your marketing goals if you understand (and actually give a damn about) the humans in your audience—step into their shoes, comprehend their challenges, then try to solve them. 

Sounds obvious, right? Unfortunately, like most things, human marketing is harder than it sounds to pull it off—particularly in the financial services industry, where it’s still a relatively new concept.

I follow a lot of financial companies on LinkedIn, and I would say that—by and large—they have not yet taken this strategy to heart.  Here’s what a typical post sounds like:

Stay up to date with timely information on the COVID-19 outbreak and its implications for investors. Read or listen to perspectives from the Global Investment Committee and analysis by our economists and analysts.

Informative?  Sort of. Differentiated?  Nope. Human? Sorry, no.

I don’t say this to be harsh—believe me, I’ve written many a social media post that sounds exactly like that one in my career.  But over time I’ve learned that writing like a robot is no way to break through.  

Want to humanize your content marketing?  Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years:

  1. Make it come from an actual human.  

Emails, blogs, social media posts—all are opportunities to showcase the humans in your company.  It’s way easier to sound human if the byline is “Brad” vs. “Brand.”

  1. Write in first/second person.

People are more likely to stop scrolling when they see words like ‘I,’ ‘we,’ ‘me,’ ‘you,’ ‘us,’ etc.  I tried to find an actual stat to back this up but couldn’t—hopefully your gut tells you I’m right.

  1. Appoint a mascot.

Make someone on your team the visible “guide” to your company’s inner workings and culture. A great example of this is the United Airlines Big Metal Bird series, where viewers learn about pretty boring stuff like how an airplane works, how luggage is processed, etc. through the eyes of a funny, personable young guy.

  1. Get your team involved.

Let your team know when new content is live and give them ideas for sharing it on their socials (hint: the more human the content is, the more comfortable your team will be with promoting it).

  1. Be vulnerable.

Letter from the CEO about how his company cares about me in this difficult time?  *Marks as spam* Letter from the CEO that shares a sad, bittersweet or touching story about what’s happening in his or her life right now?  I might be paying attention.

  1. Acknowledge emotions.

Before you write a word, try to imagine what your audience is feeling about this topic.  Now write like what they’re feeling matters to you.

  1. Use real images.

I often rely on stock photos, so no judgment here. But I think we’re living in a moment where stock photos feel more inhuman than ever before. Instead of polished, professional visuals, what if we turned all of our contributor head shots into selfies taken while WFH? What if we shared screenshots of our Zoom meetings? What if we challenged our employees to take photos that capture relevant concepts (for example, ‘market volatility’), then used the winning shots alongside blog and social media posts? Pretty sure those kinds of images would land better than ‘business man in suit at computer’ in this environment.

  1. Try different formats.

I’m a huge believer in the power of the written word, but even I can admit that podcasting and video are two great ways to bring your company’s human side to life. One catch—the people on your podcasts and videos should actually act human (e.g., tell personal stories, speak off-the-cuff, etc.).

  1. Imagine a real customer/client. CMO Dave Gerhart recently posted on LinkedIn, “Every time I get stuck writing it’s because I’m trying to write for someone else. Whenever I cut the BS and literally write like I was writing an email to a friend — I get unstuck.” I can’t say it any better, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Incidentally, here’s my “conservatively human” rewrite of the generic LinkedIn post above:

We know you’re worried about how the Covid-19 crisis is impacting your investments right now, so our Global Investment Committee is working overtime to monitor the markets and get you the info you need to confidently manage your portfolio.  Check out our Covid-19 Market Impact Hub for our latest updates, analysis, and actionable tips for navigating this time.

And for those who really want to step it up, here’s my “actually human” rewrite:

We asked what your biggest investing challenge is right now, and many of you responded that it’s tough to keep up with the changing market updates, let alone feel confident you have the right information to make portfolio decisions. So we came up with two ways to help solve those problems:

  1. We  set up this Covid-19 Market Update Hub so you can easily find our most up-to-the-minute thinking and actionable investment ideas (↓↓link below ↓↓).
  2. Our Global Investment Committee is starting an ongoing AMA. Got an investment question you’d like them to answer? Comment on this post, DM us or email me directly at—we’ll be posting the questions and answers both here and on our Covid-19 Market Update hub.

Let us know how we can help you!

-Anna (CompanyName Social Media Manager)


Okay, so I took some liberties there, but hopefully a Q&A sesh with your resident experts is something you’ve considered, if not already implemented.

One final thought about human marketing— make sure it comes from an authentic place. I think most people’s BS detectors are on super high alert right now, so the difference between acting human and being human will make all the difference to your audience.

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