Human-centered marketing: How to make your clients feel human

Alisa Adamska




In the pursuit of efficiency in digital promotion, many enterprises did not consider the human-centered approach as the most important one. However, with COVID-19 global pandemic changing common marketing beliefs and concepts, and technology being the primary conduit for communication and interaction during lockdowns, people increasingly are craving human connection.

As a result, instead of highlighting customer experience (CX) – the quality of customer care, advertising, packaging and other components of marketing mix – as their prime marketing approach, companies emphasize the importance of human experience (HX) in their promotion strategies. The concept of HX suggests that human beings should be at the center of a company’s decisions and strategies, not profit and other metrics. In order to do so, a human-centered marketing approach needs to be developed, which is an approach that puts human empathy and impact at the heart of companies’ marketing decisions.

Fig 1. Overall participation


In a survey conducted by Deloitte Insights, a rising tendency of customer engagement and active participation was discovered. 7,506 customers across four countries were surveyed in order to find out how much and in which forms people were participating in brands’ activity.

As figure 1 shows, slightly more than a half of those surveyed participated in at least one brand conversation during the past year. According to figure 2, 15% took part in the deepest forms of engagement, namely providing a direct input on design. The majority chose the digital forms of participation such as community sites, social media activity, online feedback or visual content. This study illustrates that consumers’ interest in assisting companies and engaging in their activity gradually increases, proving that customers nowadays are interested in receiving a certain experience in addition to a product or service.

Fig.2 Forms of customer engagement

So, what should we do to develop such an approach? The most important step: find out who the human beings you are talking to are. The most common way of identifying customers is through traditional profiling approaches like their demographic profile, but human-centric marketing ignores this. Instead, it focuses on a combination of three things: OCEAN profiling, Big Data analysis and ad targeting.

OCEAN profiling, based on Michal Kosinski’s Big Five model, assesses five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (Negativity); hence the “OCEAN” acronym. The various intensities of the traits form the basis of 32 different personality styles. In comparison to demographic profiling, such a method highlights real feelings and emotions of the customers and gives brand information on in which mindstates the buyers or clients can be, when they make their purchasing decisions.

Big Data analysis can also be presented as digital traces of everything that users do, both online and offline. It is used by marketers in order to analyze every user’s interaction and single out patterns, trends and preferences. There are several advantages of Big Data analytics: risk management, product innovation, quicker and better decision making within companies and improved customer experience.

In the FinTech industry Big Data is used for customer retention by personalizing their services according to customer’s preferences and selling additional products like airline tickets, delivery etc. Another application of Big Data analysis for FinTech is risk modeling as using patterns help companies create a detailed customer behavior model and compare it to the actual behavior, so that the customer will be alerted if there is any unusual activity in their account.

Targeted advertising is a personalized advertising, including online promotion, set as accurately as possible to the personal traits of an individual customer. This can be accomplished by focusing on behavioral variables such as browser history, purchase history, and other recent online activities. Ad targeting can also be developed through the use of analysis techniques such as scenario design. Scenario design represents how personas face daily challenges providing a useful insight on people’s goal-oriented behavior in certain situations. This insight can lead not only to the creation of a very specific and targeted content but also to the sales enablement.

In the finance industry the importance of human experience is now more relevant as ever, especially with the industry being virtually mostly digital. Luckily, financial institutions do not even need to collect useful customer data by doing additional research – they already have it in their database. Thus, to succeed they only need to highlight the patterns behind this data. The main challenge is to balance the practical and emotional roles that they are playing in customers’ lives.

For instance, while financial companies should carry out their function of keeping money safe, they should also treat their clients as humans, not just customers, and reduce stress in their lives, for them to successfully embrace the human-centered approach. In 2020 American Express and Delta Airlines launched their refreshed Platinum Travelcard and instead of going with the usual “get-more-miles” slogan in their campaign, they added a human touch and made their customers care.

We set our sights on a specific buzzword ‘Status,’ with the aim of giving it new emotional resonance. Our campaign, ‘For the Status of You,’ set out to celebrate the emotional significance of the trips people take. Instead of a position in a remote tiered system of data and points, status became a rich emotional signifier…..We showed what these practical benefits actually mean to people and how they underpin travel experiences, big or small
BBH Global creative agency 

Reimagining a company to be more human often starts with empathic leadership. This means listening to people to understand and, most importantly, address what matters most to them. In order to be relevant and essential to their customers, brands should embrace their role as the customer champion and broaden it to become human champion.


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