People clapping Corporations are people — at least those with a good message, anyway. It’s hard to develop an emotional connection with a faceless logo or product, and those companies that showcase a personality (rather than just a product) are bound to be more successful at developing a relationship with the audience.

The following will take a look at five ways to humanize your brand, citing some of my favorite examples of campaigns that don’t push the product, but rather, showcase the personality of the company, the people behind the products and what they care about.

1. Showcase the people behind the product

Whether through a notable spokesperson, an insightful thought leader or a portrait of company culture, there’s no shortage of successful examples in this category. But the following example is one that recently altered my perception of a company and its products, and influenced me to purchase something (albeit a small investment) that I normally wouldn’t — Sam Adams beer.

This ad (created in 2006) is one of many in a series that showcases Jim Koch, the eccentric and seemingly fun founder of Samuel Adams. Being a craft brew guy (I feel pretentious saying that), I generally shy away from what I would consider large-batch, commercial beers. Whether through perception or reality, I guess I subconsciously feel like more thought and care goes into the quality of the product when created by a smaller brewery. This series of ads told me exactly what I needed to hear to change that perception. It showed me that the people behind the product are incredibly passionate. It’s not just Jim Koch, but also the very recognizable, bearded brewmaster who appears in the ads. I tell you what … I trust that bearded man to make me a good beer, because I like him.

2. Glorify the audience and the work they do
One of the best ways to make an emotional connection with an audience is to identify with them. Show that you understand their struggles and thank them for the work they do. Ram Trucks did just that with their 2013 Superbowl ad. The ad runs two full minutes, only five seconds of which features a Ram Truck.

Most farmers are fiercely loyal to Ford or Chevy — a loyalty that is often passed down through generations. Ram had to do something bold to get farmers’ attentions, and they did so not by talking about their product, but showing that they understand and care about the audience. If I were a farmer loyal to Chevy, this ad would at the very least change my perception of Ram. It would “plant the seed,” so to speak, opening Ram up for potential consideration in future purchases.

3. Align your company (and your customers) with a good cause
All else equal (price, product, availability, etc.), would you buy from a company whose profits go toward charity or toward the unknown? Obviously, you’d choose charity. What makes this strategy even more effective is when it’s a business model, not just a limited time promotion. Adopting such a business model really speaks to who you are as a company.

Take Warby Parker and Tom’s shoes as examples. With every purchase of glasses from Warby Parker or shoes from Tom’s, a pair is donated to someone in need. With this strategy, both companies have risen from relative obscurity several years ago, to incredibly successful companies today.

4. Be honest
Honesty? In marketing?!?! Yes, it can be incredibly effective, even if it means admitting past fault. Dominoes had some serious problems with quality perceptions in the market, and they decided to tackle it head-on with an apology campaign. The ads feature the people of dominoes — ranging from chefs to product managers to the CEO. The feeling I’m left with is that there are a lot of people in the company who are making a sincere effort to turn things around. It left me feeling open to considering eating at Dominoes. Have I yet? No. Will I? I’m not sure, but I feel open to it now.

5. Be engaged in the dialogue
With the advent of social media, customer service is now a marketing issue. How you respond to (or ignore) your customers on the Web is visible to all your other current and prospective customers. Countless successful and unsuccessful examples could be cited, but here’s the deal: if you’re on social media, invest the time to engage with and provide a human response to your followers. If you don’t, you’re missing the point of being on social media in the first place.

Be likeable. Be trustworthy. Be human.
Bottom line, consumers buy from brands they like, often regardless of how compelling the case is for a competitor’s product. While most of the examples I used were relatively low-cost consumer products, humanizing your brand can have an equally effective result for influencing the purchase of high-cost B2B products. But rather than just likeability, a B2B decision maker is looking for trustworthiness — in the product, in the company and in the people behind the company.
So, follow the same formula to humanize your B2B brand: show that the people behind the products are knowledgeable and trustworthy, they understand and appreciate their customers, they care about the same things their customers care about, they’re honest, and they’re responsive. I promise this will have a greater effect than focusing on product features and benefits 100 percent of the time.

About John Krantz

Creative and strategic don’t always go together. John Krantz, a public relations director at Two Rivers Marketing, is an exception. He honed those skills while capturing monkey calls in the Costa Rican jungle. For the last six years, he’s utilized his talents for PR strategy, copy writing, media relations and video production. John’s wild about creating videos for clients and local film festivals. Swing into his inbox at jkrantz@2rm.com