Recently, I've seen social posts about human to human (H2H) as opposed to B2C or B2B, and I've seen the backlash against them: "Hey, it's not new! It's more jargon!"

Who is right? Both camps. Though the term isn't new, most of what marketers call "human" is whitewashing.

I named my company Keeping It Human five years ago. I've been writing about the human connection for years, and I'm not alone. It desperately needs to be talked about.

When Being Human Isn't

The term "human" is bandied about so pervasively because brands—especially in B2B—have a long way to go toward being human. Of course, I've also heard, "Our clients are too conservative for that."

Nonsense! People, not businesses, buy services. So, marketers repeat the "human" message yet most companies don't really get it.

My answer on how to be a better marketer hasn't changed: Stop marketing, and start connecting with meaningful conversations, not "positioning."

I've talked about "human" a lot in five years. Recently, many marketers have joined the growing chorus.

The good news: More people understand its importance.

The bad news: Most discussion has been incredibly superficial: have a personality, use pictures and videos of people, have a human tone, blah, blah, blah.

Yes, those things are important. However, they are also cosmetic—and that contributes to the backlash. If we're not human internally, none of the external crap matters. Employees, in addition to customers, are the biggest human champions we have, and creating a place they want to work for matters. There are fluid borders between internal and external worlds. Branding is not a Vegas trip: What happens internally does not stay there, and vice versa.

More than marketing, human means championing people—employees and customers—across everything a company says and does. It is an unwavering commitment to lasting core values.

Human Values Drive Performance

"Human" is an idea worth fighting for at a deeper level than most coverage tends to be.

Being human includes design thinking for creating products and services that solve human challenges. It means being ready to serve and do the right thing—even when the contract or service doesn't call for it. It means being open in creating new products before they are built because your best customers collaborated with you to build what they wanted.

Being human means having a purpose-driven story that acts as a strategic GPS for the company. If an initiative doesn't fit the story, then it doesn't get resources. Your purpose is bigger than your products and services. IBM's Smarter Planet, Chipotle's Food With Integrity, TOMS Shoes' One for One movement are all examples of a vision bigger than the company and one that human beings can rally around. Without values, there is nothing to champion. Being human means better customer experiences and that, in the long run, means loyalty and profits. Customers have choices, but personal connections and experiences help to differentiate your company.

Being human also means collaborating with customers and employees who own the "story." It means enabling your employees to be visible stewards of the company's story because internal experts—not corporate marketing—add value to your customer relationships.

For example, IBM increased customer lifetime value because it recognized that customer relationships are strengthened when customers connect directly with internal experts outside of marketing. Being human means valuing truth-tellers because only by openly discussing and fixing the big issues can companies increase value.

Ultimately, being human is putting people at the center of everything. It's about creating internally healthy companies made for people by people who actually care and want to work at those companies. I don't want to buy crap from companies whose employees don't give a crap. Because then crap is all you will get.

Marketing must give people reasons to care, both inside and outside the firewall.

* * *

"Human" is baked into company values and purpose; it's not the icing. Someday, it won't have to be called out separately. We must get there.

Until then, "being human" remains an urgent message for corporate executives to embrace at a much deeper level. It doesn't matter what term we use: being human, Human2Human, whatever. What matters is that we are being human.



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Kathy Klotz-Guest

Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder of Keeping It Human, helps companies turn marketing-speak into compelling human stories. A comic improviser and marketer, she also runs a marketing podcast. Reach her via kathy@keepingithuman.com.

LinkedIn: Kathy Klotz-Guest

Twitter: @kathyklotzguest