Content Humanization Sets You Apart From The Sizzle-Sellers

Remember that old advertising maxim, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak"? Good. Now, forget it. Today's digital marketing world calls for a new set of content rules.  

When you want to sell someone that steak today, you have to stand out from all the other sizzle-sellers in your customer's inbox by surrounding your message with content like this: 

  • An anecdote from the rancher explaining why that steak is the best he can get for the price.
  • A sommelier's list of wines to drink with it.
  • A video of your head chef showing how to grill it properly.
  • Positive ratings or comments from other diners who chose that steak.


This strategy asks you to add a face and a voice to your messages with a message that says more than "buy, buy, buy." 

It's one of my own passions as an email marketer and one I spoke on as a member of the "Humanization of Marketing Content" panel at MediaPost's recent Email Insider Summit. (See it here on Ustream:



What's So Different? 

Content humanization isn't just a new buzzword. It's a new way of doing content marketing, bringing in your corporate personality and style and making both your employees and customers visible in your messages as it's appropriate for your content and business goals. 

Humanizing your content means that you lose your "corporate speak" and talk as an individual from the company back out to people. It's being accepted and driven by social media, and even becoming a customer expectation, where your company is being represented by someone on Twitter or Facebook with a picture, name or specific voice.   

Here's how one fellow panelist, Jody Wolak of Moosejaw Mountaineering, characterizes her company's approach: "We try to make our marketing reflect our core values, to be notable, to be engaged with our customers, to make them love us and to only do cool stuff. ... We try to include some kind of human element and some kind of 'madness' element in everything we do, because our slogan is 'Love the Madness.' ... [Talking to customers] and having a real conversation with them is a first step in the humanization of our messages."

If It's So Great, Why Isn't Everybody Doing It? 

Adding a human element to your marketing content sounds so easy, but it can disrupt the status quo of a typical marketing program. These are some of the challenges you might have to overcome to be successful:

1. You need organizational change. Marketing might still own the process, but the faces and voices that can populate your messages might come from all over your organization. 

I've written before about Air New Zealand transactional messages  that post a picture and welcoming message from the flight crew scheduled for the passenger's flight. Airline reps say passengers actually carry a print copy of that message to show the crew.

2. You need more content. Well, actually, you don't. You just need a different kind of content, and you probably have much more content than you realize. You just don't know where to find it. Your other marketing content, like blog or Twitter/Facebook posts, can be a rich vein, along with your customer support staff, line employees, etc.

3. You need new ways to measure the impact. This is what makes the standard, undifferentiated "20% off and free shipping" offer so appealing. You have concrete ways to measure success: clicks, conversions, unsubscribes.

Because this new marketing-message style can have a different goal, you need to use different metrics and a longer timetable. You're looking for ways to measure an overall lift for your brand, through metrics such as an increase in sharing via forwards or postings on Twitter and Facebook, an increase in email subscriptions, Twitter followers, Facebook fans or postings or a decrease in list churn.

4. You just aren't that funny. Humor is an attention-getting way to add a humanizing voice to your messages, but that's only one tactic. Humanizing content is all about being memorable and engaging.

Your choice of voice will be the logical extension of your company or brand image or presence in the marketplace. What works for one company likely won't fit well with yours.

Besides your messages, your customers are also receiving email from four or five other companies that sell widgets just like yours for about the same price. Which messages will they remember and anticipate? 

It's Really Back to the Future 

Content humanization just reflects another age-old marketing maxim: "People buy from other people." That's what you accomplish when you add faces and voices to your messages, whether they're your employees or your customers.

What's happening at your company? I would love to hear from you on either side of this issue, whether you have been able to change the direction of your messages or the challenges you might be facing in trying.   

If you'd like to read about tactics you can use to add "voice" to your messages, check out these previous Email Insider columns: "Email's New Role In a World Gone 'Mocial'" and "Using Personality To Help Drive Engagement."

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