“I am not a robot. I have a heart and I bleed…” Serena Williams, 2018
The media often forgets that, despite her celebrity status, Williams is not numb to hurtful comments. And yet, because she’s not a ‘normal’ human being, it’s acceptable to treat her differently. Poorly, even.
Applying this theory to marketing, there’s a growing danger that we’ve stopped thinking about customers as human beings. That instead, we’re developing cold, lifeless, robotic relationships.
And enemy number one? Technology.
Nowadays, we don’t talk about people, we talk about segments. Who cares about personality when you can serve weather-triggered ads? Ever heard of open-source programmatic?
This is the reason why the customer is so often forgotten.
Entertaining these industry fetishisms encourages us to think one step removed from real life. They mask the beating heart of our thinking with buzzy digital distractions so that, consequently, we forget who we’re really talking to: the human individual.
I can empathise with technology because, just like us humans, it’s ever-evolving
A recent study by Accenture proved that engaging with customers as humans can achieve a spend premium of up to 47%, driving emotional bonds and commercial benefit. By not treating customers as human beings – thinking more and more about how and less and less about who – we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.
And yet, I think I’ve found a place for tech in my humble human heart.
I can empathise with technology because, just like us humans, it’s ever-evolving. Transforming. We’re developing every day – as are the algorithms automating, well … everything. We’re making mistakes and modifying our behaviour – as programmatic learns by doing. And we’re trying to see the world through different lenses – just as AR, VR and other ‘realities’ enable their users to do.
And while machines are not (yet) human, we can make it so by treating them like one of us. By empathising. Because there really are more similarities between us and technology than we care to believe.
ALWAYS REMEMBERING THE PRINCIPLE RULE: NEITHER OF US IS PERFECT.
We should be gently reminding ourselves of this rule every time we take a brief with ‘AR’ splashed across it. Or a meeting where IGTV is brought up for the tenth time. What will that technology actually achieve for our audience? How can we realistically expect it to communicate? And ultimately how will tech affect the brand’s relationship with the customer?
Tech isn’t wrong, or bad or the devil. It’s simply imperfect. Just like us human beings.
So, when those conversations start, try to find a place for tech in your heart too and treat it with empathy:
- Bring the work to life in partnership with the tech, not because it will somehow be ‘better’ by using technology. Tech is great (just like us!), but don’t expect it to solve all your or your customers’ problems.
- Don’t let the tech remove you from the heart of the situation – remember who you’re talking to (humans … not robots). Check yourself when you ‘buzzword’, and always question the value of the tech for the customer.
- Keep your finger on tech’s pulse, while always championing the human being behind the screen. Stand up for the right solution for the end user, not just the buzzy one.
We have the power to control how tech evolves and where it takes us next. With great power comes great responsibility, and so we must ground ourselves in our core human principles: our morale and our empathy.
We can absolutely transform brands through technology. But instead of jumping to it as our go-to, let’s do so by using our human nature. Our empathy.
And with that, we can hope that tech will one day treat us like humans too.