Humanising Relevance — “Why” has become more important than “What”

These days people not only want to know what you sell or do but “why” you do it — why should I care? How is your brand connected to me? It's no longer just about making and selling products, it's engaging people in a dialogue, through human centred storytelling in ways that matter to them.

Brand storytelling is the medium in which a dialogue is conducted with all the people that matter to you. Employees, investors, customers, communities, suppliers, distributors, etc. Each conversation has to be rooted in an authentic brand voice that ensures a consistent understanding of who you are and what you stand for. More importantly it has to be conducted on a level that is particular and meaningful to the individual.

Understanding “why” you are the way you are is the key to personalising your appeal.

We are living in a ultra suspicious age where we need to know more. Transparency, traceability, and increasingly the integrity challenge means that companies have to front up. Why you make a product a certain way is an important question to answer in your story to customers. Management teams so often spend a great deal of time defining the purpose and values and I would wager that most forget the “why” part.

 Circa 1920. The imposing banking hall which overpowers the customers has remained remarkably similar over the century.

 Circa 1920. The imposing banking hall which overpowers the customers has remained remarkably similar over the century.

Most petrol heads know that Enzo Ferrari made cars to go racing. He was very clear on his “why”. Every waking hour was devoted with his team to winning and it's this enduring DNA we love him for even today.

But supposing you’re in insurance or banking this “why” thing is more difficult to get your head around. Ask a room full of bankers for the “why” in their businessand you may be thrown out as the poet. The soul of a business or indeed a person is their “why” factor. We can get quite close to the answer when we ask the question “what makes you tick”.

It's the human insights expressed in a brand which are always the most appealing. 

We like to know as naturally curious human beings: who are the people behind the things we consume and do they really care about us?

2016 and nothing appears to have changed in the transaction process.

2016 and nothing appears to have changed in the transaction process.

Humanising relevance will be the next frontier of brand expression. We are finally creeping beyond the pretentious age of describing products supported by strings of superlatives. In fact the heights we are now at in terms of visual metaphors are so sophisticated around brands many are no longer believable.

Another observation about human beings and brands is a growing desire for those with a stronger feminine bias. I think it's because of the harsh age we are exposed to in most high streets across the urban world. We hanker for things which are soft even textural. Calmness is a rareingredient in modern life. Screaming colour pallates on every street corner and sheer graphic anarchy unleashed by the desktop amateur is I am pleased to say finally being recognised as a visual pollution in our lives.

So in my view the stage is set for the Bank or service station on the corner to capture these emerging consumer wants. To humanise themselves and tell us who they really are and “why” they are the way they are.

Why can’t tomorrow’s banks teach us to fish and not sell fish.

Introducing a new DIY phenomenon in financial services is the next frontier. It would require a whole new redefinition to go down this path of interdependence. I don't know how many times I've seen the banking hall redesigned in my lifetime but the dependant transactional relationship remains unchanged. Clearly they need to become the “driving instructors” of money, coaching me as opposed to poaching me with fractions of interest differences.

You feel somewhat humbled by the flashing screens and changing numbers as you try to understand your finances.

You feel somewhat humbled by the flashing screens and changing numbers as you try to understand your finances.

A modern “why” in banking could quite simply be a desire to see me succeed and catch more fish without them. A fresh interdependance around a customer where unheard of products might be bundled to deliver this, is about my success and not theirs. Less about sports sponsorships and more about personal responsiveness would deliver a far more lasting brand loyalty.

Products and their supporting brands are only just beginning to be designed from the outside in.

And this new frontier of management behaviour is still raw, full of carpet baggers and snake oil experts telling us how it should be done.

Volvo’s valiant attempts in human relevance are deeply informed by the company's social principles and sense of family. Embodied in their DNA is a strong sense of human values.Their product outcomes clearly define the way they think and feel about the world.

Volvo’s valiant attempts in human relevance are deeply informed by the company's social principles and sense of family. Embodied in their DNA is a strong sense of human values.Their product outcomes clearly define the way they think and feel about the world.

The solutions are simple if we can humanise the insights and reshape things. The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.