Technology is so present in our lives that we often forget that people move the world.
When it comes to marketing, human beings are behind the screens, elaborating or receiving the companies’ ads and content.
For this reason, the concept of Human Experience has gained importance.
The intention is to approach brands and consumers with the human essence in mind, which is often lost in digital communications due to the fast pace we live in.
In times of social distancing, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, this concept gains even more relevance.
We, people, are intrinsically social. We like being involved and close to each other. But COVID-19 has driven people away, taken relationships to a virtual level, and digitalized companies.
That’s why the Human Experience promoted by brands has never made as much sense as it does now.
Next, you will better understand what Human Experience means. In this article, we tackle the following questions:
- What is Human Experience?
- Human Experience, User Experience, Customer-Centric: what are the differences?
- Why is it important to focus on the human experience?
- What are the pillars of Human Experience?
- How to apply Human Experience to your business?
Check it out!
What is Human Experience?
Human Experience is a concept that places human beings at the center of marketing strategies to create valuable connections.
It is not the consumer, the client, the target audience, or the shopper: the focus is the person with whom the brand connects.
This concept appears in a context in which our routines are increasingly speeding up. While technology helps us face this frantic rhythm with practicality and agility, it also robotizes us.
We enjoy posts instead of saying we like people. We read online evaluations instead of exchanging experiences with other consumers, we buy through the internet instead of talking with sellers, and so on.
As time goes by, we feel less human, with no time to socialize, exchange looks and smiles, understand emotions, and connect with each other.
Although many companies today prioritize Relationship Marketing strategies, digital interfaces end up artificializing these connections. In this sense, the goal of a Human Experience is to reconnect human beings with their essence.
This trend is not exactly new. Decades ago, marketing strategies didn’t even look outwards — what mattered was production.
Then, companies started seeing people, but only as target consumer groups.
Finally, the turn came with the third generation of marketing, bringing the realization that consumers are unique and complex humans and should be treated as such.
Now, Marketing takes another step towards interacting with people instead of consumers and elevating the Human Experience in relationships with brands.
Human Experience, User Experience, Customer-Centric: what are the differences?
From Marketing 3.0 on, companies began to put the customer in the center of their strategies, focusing on their needs, perceptions, reactions, concerns, and behaviors. As they interact with brands, customers guide the companies’ actions.
Then, other concepts emerged to synthesize this relationship:
User Experience (UX): how users interact with interfaces and digital products guides their development to deliver value to the public (most used in Design and I.T.). A user-centered mentality guides it.
Customer Experience (CX): marketing and relationship strategies aim to create a valuable experience for consumers during their interactions with the brand (most used in marketing). A customer-centric mentality guides it.
What the concept of Human Experience (HX) proposes is that companies be human-centric.
This means focusing strategies on human beings because they do not only use or consume products — they simply live. And brands and products are just one element of their lives.
So, the question is: how can marketing be more relevant in people’s lives?
The idea behind the Human Experience is to create experiences that connect with people’s purpose, not with the idea of consumption or use.
Furthermore, the concept of Human Experience encompasses not only people on the outside but also employees and partners who are part of the company. After all, people are all around a business.
Considering these aspects, Deloitte proposed the following formula that synthesizes Human Experience, considering the experience of consumers (Customer Experience or CX), employees (Workforce Experience or WX), and partners (Partner Experience or PX):
Why is it important to focus on the human experience?
Using the Human Experience perspective in marketing makes companies more prone to doing good for people.
Of course, sales, income, and profits are still essential because they guarantee the business’s survival. But now they are at people’s service.
The same goes for technologies: of course, they won’t cease to exist and evolve. Digital Marketing channels, e-commerce, online services are still important. But now they are also at people’s service, instead of the other way around.
This is a good opportunity for companies to rethink how their marketing strategies, content, technologies, publicity, and services can improve people’s lives.
How can they provide a more valuable experience that connects with people’s purposes and values in the bigger picture?
Brands, products, and services that have this contextual vision of people’s lives become much more relevant.
According to Deloitte, organizations that create humanized experiences for clients, partners and employees tend to grow faster and build stronger brand loyalty.
They deliver much more value to the market and the community around them. If brands can improve people’s lives — consumers, customers, employees, partners, etc. — they establish much deeper connections.
Truly Human Experiences make people feel alive, fulfilled, connected to their nature, aligned to their values and purposes.
This is a strong tendency that has been transforming the way companies do marketing.
What are the pillars of Human Experience?
So far, the concept of Human Experience seems very abstract, right? So, let’s work towards a better understanding of how to apply it to your business.
The first step is knowing what the pillars of Human Experience are. Marketing teams must incorporate these concepts in every strategy. It is necessary to change the commercial mindset that still prevails in marketing so that it is possible to humanize brands.
From the Human Experience perspective, below are the elements that you should prioritize.
As Simon Sinek would say, start with “why”. A purpose gives meaning to things — why we are here, what we are doing for the world. It’s that feeling that we’re part of something bigger and that we matter.
Purpose awakens humanity in people. It reminds us that we’re not just here to buy, compete, consume. Above that, there are more important issues.
Therefore, a purpose can connect people. Companies with purpose engage employees, customers, and society in general. They show that they do not exist only to sell but to build a better world. This way, people relate to companies in a deeper way, not only through consumption.
It is from this perspective, then, that all strategies must be thought. Publicity, content, technology: everything should revolve around the purpose.
General Motors’ commitment to “Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion” is an example of purpose. That’s what guides its actions and drives the company towards the future.
Empathy is the ability to see the world through the eyes of another person.
It is an exercise of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes to acknowledge one’s pain, feelings, and emotions — without any judgment.
Empathy makes us truly human. It shows our ability to connect with other people’s emotions. It allows us to understand the importance of something, even if it is not important to us. Therefore, we set aside our own problems to understand what is around us.
In this sense, empathy is also one of the pillars of Human Experience that brands should provide.
For example, you might think that a joke on social media is harmless, but when you put yourself in other people’s shoes, you realize that it can be racist, homophobic, or xenophobic.
Often, it is the moment that shows your capacity for empathy. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, brands needed to exercise their empathic capacity to perceive the scenario and adapt their strategies to a moment of high emotional instability.
Although mental health issues were extreme in 2020, these negative sensations will continue for a long time to come.
Therefore, it is more important than ever to embrace empathy in your business strategies and content.
Authenticity shows who you are, according to your essence and values, without fear of admitting your flaws.
Authentic people are true. For brands, owing up to their authenticity can be challenging.
In general, they want to show that they are perfect, without flaws, because this could damage their reputation in the market. But we know that brands are made by people, and people make mistakes, get it right, have positions and opinions.
That’s why authentic brands are those that know how to deal with their vulnerabilities. Thus, they become more human and relatable because imperfection is a trait of humanity.
Imagine a brand that shows the missteps in its history, is not afraid to adopt polemic positions, and transparently shows its backstage.
This brand demonstrates that it is made by people while reminding the public that there are human beings behind their content and strategies. This is authentic.
For example, Ben & Jerry’s was not afraid to take a stand against Donald Trump in the United States.
Did it run the risk of losing clients? Yes. Did it run the risk of suffering retaliation? Yes. But the brand preferred to be true to its values and to take a stand.
To do so, it launched an ice cream flavor called Pecan Resist, which fueled a movement to resist the President’s discriminatory policies and fight for a more just and equalitarian nation.
With this movement, the brand made a few enemies but became closer to its community.
Today we launched Pecan Resist! This flavor supports groups creating a more just and equitable nation for us all, and who are fighting President Trump’s regressive agenda. Join the resistance, here: https://t.co/b7mu4tVPYE pic.twitter.com/mJMp7O3KkL— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) October 31, 2018
People, as sociable beings, like to feel accepted and valued by others. When they manifest themselves, they like to be heard. When they love, they like to be loved back.
Therefore, reciprocity is also important in Human Experience.
But for this, brands need to step down from their pedestals. In today’s marketing, it is necessary to interact with people on an equal level.
The hierarchy between brands and consumers that puts companies on the top no longer exists. Today, consumers have power and are not passive anymore.
So, when interacting with consumers, brands should be reciprocal. They should show that they care about people, listen to what consumers say, and consider their opinions.
This is valid, for example, for services, sales, and social media content during image crises, as well as several other situations. Reciprocity is one of the pillars of Human Experience, so it must always be present.
If a consumer shows that they trust a brand, has already made several purchases, has talked about a company on social media, has indicated it to friends. The brand can’t ignore it, right?
It can offer a discount or include them in an exclusive group of clients, for instance.
But, as we are talking about Human Experiences, an even more interesting approach is to offer the possibility of interacting with the brand. Inviting them for an event, for instance, generates even more proximity.
And if the brand can invite a loyal customer to give an opinion about a product launch? They will probably feel even more appreciated.
How to apply Human Experience to your business?
Now, to make a Human Experience strategy even more palpable, we brought some tips for you to apply the concept to your business. Check them out!
Incorporate the purpose and values of the brand in your everyday life
As we explained, a purpose is one of the pillars of brands that want to connect with people.
The purpose must also be coherent with the brand’s values, which define its personality and make it more relatable to the public.
Purpose and values should be defined during brand planning and guide all the other decisions so that all action is aligned to them.
The problem is that, too often, these elements become just words attached to a wall. If the teams do not absorb them, the company’s strategies will not match what it wants to communicate.
That’s why the brand essence must be incorporated into its routine. Every strategy must be thought according to the definitions of purpose and values.
To do this, they must be part of the organizational culture, which guides employees with the organization’s philosophy, beliefs, and values.
Of course, in practice, this may not be so simple. Resistance to cultural changes, misunderstanding in communication, and inconsistencies between speech and practice are common.
Therefore, incorporating the purpose and values of the brand depends a lot on the company’s leaders.
They should propose (not impose) the definitions and inspire the team to follow them through clear communication during the work routine.
Create a culture that is accepting of mistakes
“Making mistakes is human.” We have heard this phrase hundreds of times in our lifetime. But we hardly accept this idea in practice.
Nobody likes to make mistakes, but we like to point out and condemn others’ mistakes as if they were not natural.
With companies, it is the same. Managers like to talk about innovation and creativity to differentiate themselves in the market, but they do not encourage the freedom required to create.
In general, companies are concerned with avoiding or punishing employees’ mistakes. In this environment, no one wants to take the risk of launching ideas that can go wrong.
The acceptance of mistakes has a lot to do with authenticity, which we mentioned before. Authentic brands are not afraid of making mistakes trying to get it right because they understand that this is natural to the human being.
So, by creating a culture that accepts failure but celebrates achievements, you also create a more humanized working environment for employees.
They feel more comfortable to participate, suggest ideas, take the initiative, and solve problems.
And this is the starting point to create a more human, creative, and innovative brand.
Understand human needs
It is common for marketing teams to conduct market research to divide people into segments and define a target audience. This process can serve to define market positioning, but it doesn’t embrace all human complexity.
Another possibility is to work with people. The buyer persona describes the public’s pain, doubts, and needs as a partially fictitious character.
However, this description revolves around the company’s product — in other words, it highlights the characteristics of the buyer persona as a consumer, not as a human being.
From the Human Experience perspective, this public analysis should go beyond the brand’s universe and consider people in a wider context, not just as targets or mere consumers.
To communicate with them, you need to understand the deepest human needs, not only those related to consumption.
The Theory of Human Needs, represented on Maslow’s Pyramid, helps to understand the most basic needs of a human being: physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization.
It is necessary to satisfy the needs from the pyramid’s base first to reach the top and be fully satisfied.
So, take a close look at people to understand their needs and connect with them. Notice that this requires an empathy exercise from the brand, much beyond market research numbers.
During the pandemic, for example, the scenario of instability left people feeling insecure. The risk of getting sick, dying, losing someone, losing their job, and several other negative sensations ignited their need for security.
In this context, brands that knew how to meet this need managed to create a Human Experience.
The Brazilian company Magazine Luiza, for example, became notorious at the beginning of the pandemic because it did not ignore the scenario.
Right at the beginning of the social distancing, the company launched a digital sales platform for micro and small retailers and autonomous professionals, which allowed them to maintain their business during the crisis.
All it took was a sensitive look at the insecurity entrepreneurs were facing to meet their needs and connect with them.
Respect people’s timing
The empathy exercises must be constant. In relationships, you should always be aware of what the other person is feeling in order to understand their emotions and interact with them in the best possible way.
But during life, the week, the day, people live different moments. And you need to exercise empathy at every one of them to connect with their emotions.
And we are not talking about the buyer’s journey — after all, this concept is focused on the stages of consumption.
We are talking about the moments of life in which consumption is only one element (and, generally, not the most important one).
If a customer comes to your store at the end of a workday, they will probably be tired. Maybe they just want to buy what they need right away and go home.
So, this is what the store should offer: agility and precision, not an endless conversation or endless product options to choose from.
If the client contacts the store to complain about a faulty product, they will probably be frustrated.
They don’t want to wait for hours on the phone, nor talk to a robot that doesn’t understand their problem. They just want to return or change the product as quickly as possible.
Therefore, empathy in the context of Human Experience allows you to perceive the moment that the person on the other side of the conversation is living.
Depending on how they are feeling, the brand’s approach needs to adapt to create a more humanized experience.
To understand the importance of this, here is an example of what not to do: at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, some executives gave statements criticizing the commerce shutdown and minimizing the deaths caused by the disease.
In a moment of emotional instability, they showed a complete lack of empathy and, of course, came out of this episode with a scratched reputation.
Create caring and welcoming spaces
Taking care of people can also be a task of the marketing team. Sounds strange? Well, the role of marketing goes far beyond generating sales. By dealing directly with clients and consumers, this area of the company also needs to create relationships and show that the brand cares about people.
It is often the case that, instead of another offer or discount, people just need to feel welcomed.
Do you know that kind of action that warms the heart and leaves you feeling cared for and appreciated?
It is a natural thing. People need hugs, someone who says it’s okay for them to feel a certain way, someone who celebrates their victories together with them, someone who offers support when they struggle. And that someone can be your brand or your employees.
Dove has made an Instagram post that shows what it means to make people feel appreciated.
During the coronavirus pandemic, on International Nursing Day, the brand published the post below to support health care professionals and encouraged followers to tag nurses in gratitude for their work. A very sensitive attitude considering the moment.
So, what do you think about applying these Human Experience strategies to your business?
If you already work with the concept of customer experience, maybe you are already familiar with some of them.
The difference is mainly how you look at people and contexts: no more users or consumers, but human beings; no more use or consumption, but life.
This change of perspective is necessary to elevate the Human Experience in the exchanges with brands and create valuable and meaningful connections between people.
Now, we’d like to encourage you to take the opportunity to read the fifth issue of the Rock Content Magazine, which talks about the Content Experience of brands — including how it can become more humanized.