As we continue to navigate the changed expectations and needs of our stakeholder audiences, Margaret Flanagan, Co-Founder at independent agency Tales & Heads and MEPRAFellow and Strategy Board Member, suggests it’s time for businesses and brands to ditch the old labels and begin to think and talk like humans again.
While the standard historical marketing model was Business to Business (B2B), Business to Consumer (B2C), or Business to Government (B2G), in 2021, that approach no longer resonates. Maybe it’s the pandemic. Maybe it’s the impact of the #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo movements. Maybe it’s the climate crisis. Maybe it’s Big Data. Or maybe it’s just because we have had enough of being segmented into boxes. Whatever it is, we want change.
All of us have been designated ‘consumers’ since birth, and to be frank, it’s hardly flattering. Just here on the planet to consume. Eat, sleep, shop, repeat. But we don’t just consume, do we? We are so much more than that. We love, we create, we procreate, we build, we develop, we evolve and, sometimes, we destroy. So enough with the old ‘B2’ labels. They don’t fit any more. We have outgrown them.
Smart brands and businesses have already recognised and responded to this global groundswell and are starting to think and communicate differently. They are stepping away from the perceived ways of doing things, and instead embracing human to human communications.
Because by putting people at the heart of our brand thinking, we build bonds that inspire and endure. Human to human communications (H2H if you really must) means creating strategies and crafting narratives that are shaped in response to the individual needs of our audiences; ensuring there is a human element embedded in every touchpoint. And when those stories we share are built on a deep understanding of what matters to the individuals we want to connect with – whether they are global investors, government leaders, or a young family in Abu Dhabi – then they will not just be heard, they will be believed.
Even Deloitte makes the case for human to human communications. Its recent report, The Social Enterprise in a World Disrupted, states: “Making the shift from ‘Survive to Thrive’ depends on an organization becoming distinctly human at its core – a different way of being that approaches every question, every issue and every decision from a human angle first.” And, of course, that applies just as much to marketing and communications campaigns as it does to corporate culture or investment decisions. Indeed, they are all inextricably linked.
When businesses start behaving like the people who run them – rather than the faceless, emotionless corporations that the worst of their ilk have become – better decisions are made. As humans, we look after and care for one another. We look after our local environments, we learn and we teach and we feed and we nurture. Yes, we typically prioritise ourselves and our own interests, but we also ensure that decisions are made with regard to the people and communities around us. As we are the ones advising on or making business decisions – from marketing to product development to pricing – surely the least we can do is to ensure that the business and brands we represent behave in the same way that we would as humans. With thought. And heart. And soul.
It may have taken a while, and we may have needed a pandemic to remind us, but it seems that we’re remembering that those decisions don’t have to cost us financially. In fact, the opposite is true. Businesses that behave well – that care about employees’ health and wellbeing, that respect the environment, that treat suppliers and customers fairly – are proven to be more sustainable, attract and retain better talent, command a premium, and provide better returns for all – including investors.
So, let’s use this opportunity to get back to basics, strip back those labels, and remember that whatever demographic we’re talking to, there’s a human at the end of that funnel. And if we want to be heard as marketers, and if we want to listen and learn, then it’s critical that we connect in ways that are culturally relevant, human and memorable. Because if we don’t care, why should we expect anyone else to?