Understanding people, our instincts and what drives us as human beings, is at the heart of building brands that have meaning within our lives.

If our very human instinct is based on being drawn to people we trust, and people with whom we share common values and beliefs — we must remind ourselves of this simple truth when building brands.

When a brand, organisation, service or even a country, connects with us in a meaningful way, it makes us feel something positive. That brand has a far greater chance of building loyalty and maintaining a certain relevance and meaning in our lives.

Without meaning, we switch off.

In an age where information is at our beck and call, and where content, trends, memes and ideas fly past at the speed of light, simplicity of message has never been more important.

Today and tomorrow

The Cluetrain Manifesto spouted the notion of consumer interaction, communities and a world where we would have a deeper connection with each other and the brands we believe in. It spoke of a conversation that was just beginning and inter-related networks that would change both the inside and outside of our businesses.

Naomi Klein’s No Logo forced us to investigate the full integrity of the brands we dealt with every day and hold them accountable in a way we never did before.

Today we are at a stage in our evolution as consumers, where we are only just beginning to learn to adjust to an amazing onslaught of messages. And we are slowly honing the ability to sift through these messages and find the brands that we genuinely connect with — the brands that we can wear with pride and use to build, or add to, our own identities.

Ethnographer Simon Sinek states that ‘every decision we make in our lives is our way of saying something about who we are and what we believe in — this is the same for an individual as it is for an organisation’.

Product brands, service brands, charity brands, association brands and country brands, all should be looking to connect with people in meaningful ways. To work towards establishing a strong people-focussed ethos internally and hold a world view and values that will attract those that uphold the same set of principles.

The consumer of today can see through the smoke and mirrors of a new coat of paint, a pun, double-entendre, a lie. They dig deeper and wider; their detection abilities are honed and they seek through wallpaper brands, for something more.

The consumers of today seek organisations that they can believe in — organisations that uphold the same values and ethos as they do.

There is no longer any room for falsities. Aren’t we all tired of looking at wallpaper brands replete with shallow aesthetics, gimmicks and false promises?

If we are going to add meaning, and value for customers, we must begin to focus on the people at the heart of our organisations and ensure that we are building a value system that is true to our own identities as individuals. Because when it isn’t, we fail as businesses and as organisational cultures in the broader context.

We must focus on the people who make brands tick — the customers and our employees — and we must create messages that are true symbols of what we stand for. Our beliefs must be at the heart of what we say and do. bThis will be intrinsic in the brands that live to see tomorrow.

What happens when you focus on people?

It’s not about us, it’s about them.

We need to find new ways of finding and using insights, and we need to carefully observe and become inquisitive enough to ask profoundly simple questions. Because people’s behaviours and values both directly influence, and are influenced by the identities of the brands they associate with.

A funny thing happens when we become curious about people when creating business strategy, building brand strategy and attempting to communicate — we begin to ask questions and our behaviour changes to something that can only be described as that of a cultural ethnographer.

Questions like:

What are they thinking? How are they interacting? What are their stories, their dreams? What makes them angry? Where’s the concern? What are they passionate about? Why?

We must also look internally.

The business world must understand that its number one audience is made up of the people who deliver the service, interact with customers, build products, create policy, develop content and those that choose to walk into work every single day — its employees.

These are the people who live and breathe the brand, and become the embodiment of everything it stands for; creating and evolving its identity every day.

When an organisation taps into the values of its people and truly understands its customers and their values, it begins to create a brand identity that has depth, clarity and meaning.

And that it is this world — the world of commerce that can create true positive impact in people’s lives.

Better / Next

As leaders in business — CEOs, Executives, Marketing leaders –we must take on the attributes of ethnographers and anthropologists. We must understand the impact our decisions have on the different cultures and communities we touch, as well as the people whom we have within our businesses.

We must understand what impact truly means.

We must begin to understand that at the heart of a remarkable organisation, ticks something not very different to a human identity — a common set of values and beliefs — a purpose.

We must learn to collaborate, experiment, fail, talk, observe, involve, interact and explore the world we live in — and more importantly, the people and the customers we are creating messages for.

We must learn new ways of doing things and embrace both creativity and failure in the pursuit of greater ideas.

Through our work we must learn to discover the deeper communication problems faced by customers/consumers/clients/citizens and seek simple human insights from our research to develop strategy that is clear and meaningful.

There is too much noise and we mustn’t add to it.

When we focus on deeper connections with people, that are true and simple, we will see a greater return in customer loyalty and client relationships that move beyond the transactional, and into a far stronger place.

We need to ask ourselves every day, in the work that we do — how can we give the people at the heart of our businesses something to believe in?

MarchFirst: This article first appeared in the weekly leadership briefing, MarchFirst.

Owner of Strategy & Innovation Consultancy, Tank. Fearless Conversations Podcast. MarchFirst Leadership Academy.

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