Can Brands Be Human? Study Suggests They Better Be

With most consumers checking their smartphones constantly, brands must have a human side -- speaking with their customers, not at them, according to How Human Is Your Brand?, a study by Forrester commissioned by Braze.

When brands demonstrate that human side, people are likely to “be very satisfied” (47%), make a purchase (47%), recommend the brand (49%), and love it (37%).

Forrester bases its thesis on something called the Brand Humanity index (BHI).   

The company surveyed 3,091 consumers and asked them to recall a “recent and memorable interaction” with a brand. It then applied the BHI, in which the “top 9 emotional associations most predictive of the likelihood of having experienced “human communication” were weighted by predictive power and combined into an “emotion” component of the index score. It then “formed a BH index of 62 across the global set of consumers.” 



Don’t think the U.S. leads in this area.: It comes in only third, with a BHI score of 62.8, compared with 64.3 for the UK 64.3 and 63.9 for Canada. France scores 62.6, Germany 60.0 and Japan 52.0.

There is room for comparison — of the consumers surveyed, 76% use their mobile device several times a day for emails, texting, talking, browsing and using apps — and 27% check almost constantly. The leading activity, pursued by 79%, is search.

Brands that stand out in the rush of messages are:

  • Responsive
  • Social
  • Friendly
  • Thoughtful
  • Helpful
  • Personable
  • Intelligent
  • Honest
  • Reassuring

Of course, it’s easy to exhibit those characteristics by phone (assuming your employees have these traits). But how do you communicate them in an email?

By writing in a natural way, by not speaking down to your customer, and by avoiding the hard sell.

“The brands that continue to deliver the same human communications through emerging channels — take your pick: chatbots, email, app notifications, social feeds, custom-branded voice personas in smart-home speakers, and many more — stand a clear advantage,” the study notes.

Firms succeed at this by “aligning their brand voice to authenticity, empathy, and clarity/simplicity,” it continues.

Brands also warm their customers’ hearts by providing them with “multiple channels available to interact with the brand in their time of need,” the study adds. “Texting, chat (human or bot), email, push notifications, call centers — strongly considerate brands grasp opportunities to connect with customers on their terms.”

Forrester concludes the following, and we quote: 

  • Be human by focusing on the people you serve.
  • Humans are unique, and so brands should find their unique set of emotional clues. 
  • Let empathy guide your brand humanity efforts.
  • Brand humanity still requires expression through machines.
  • Building brand humanity will require investment. 
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