human centric marketing

The Human Element Takes Center Stage

There’s a revolution happening in marketing, and it’s a human-centric one.

Editor’s Note:  The following article highlights some of the key topics addressed at the 2019 Movable Ink Think Summit.  We’re republishing this piece because, although we did not attend, the event elevated several of the most important themes in customer engagement right now.

At Movable Ink’s Think Summit, one theme was remarkably clear: there’s a revolution happening in marketing, and it’s a human-centric one.


Digital isn’t new anymore. Neither is data. We’ve known about the power of digital and the power of data for over two decades. The digital revolution has come, and brought with it advanced tools, products, and solutions. The tools are certainly convenient, and when applied properly, can yield impressive results.

But what customers are saying, over and over again, is that they are yearning for something more. A deeper connection to a brand. A personalized experience that goes beyond recommendations based on the last thing you bought. Push notifications and emails that make sense in the moment, based on what the customer is doing. And for the love of God, please no more happy birthday messages with coupons.

To achieve this level of familiarity, it takes more than data, campaigns and software solutions. It takes someone who knows things like comic timing, creativity, and executive planning.

It takes a human.

People trump numbers

“Data is sexy,” said Brendan Witcher vice president of digital strategy at Forrester during a morning session. And it is, but like most appealing things, there is a more reductive quality to it. Consumers are more willing than ever to walk away if the experience does not match their expectation. Not only that, but customers expectations rise universally despite only one or two experiences that may be meeting their expectation. In other words, the consumer isn’t comparing their services to competitors, they are comparing it to their last experience. Comparison shopping is now completely subjective. Which means data still works, although not in the same way.

“We’re buying all the right tech, and we’re doing all the right things, but for some reason we’re not getting the results,” Witcher continued during his session. “We’re not aligning the experience with our customers.”

The key to reaching customers is personalization — relevant experiences, not merely product recommendations — by tailoring digital content to a customer. It takes a mindset, not a tech solution, to make that happen

But how can you get in the right mindset for personalization?

Empathy is key

Later on Matthew Nolan, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Pegasystems, spoke about the parallels between a sociopath and a marketer. Both are highly charismatic, both are manipulative, and both lack empathy. “It’s not looking at a customer and saying ‘what product can I sell them?’ It’s about looking at a customer and saying ‘what do they need?’’ Nolan’s proposed paradigm is not just a case of the warm and fuzzies. The data shows that there is only a one percent response to digital marketing campaigns. That’s unsustainable, and marketers need to have consistent wins, not just in quarterly revenue spurts, but year over year. 

So is creativity

Vivek Sharma, CEO of Movable Ink, delivered the morning keynote speech with sincerity that is a little bit unusual in keynote speeches. Usually keynote speeches are all Toastmaster’s gleam: charisma, loud music, smooth catchphrases and facile takeaways. Sharma opened instead with a bit of personal history: the screen featured a photo of a group of dark-haired children gathered around a 1980s Apple computer (one of whom was a young Sharma). Sharma made the resonant point that computers have graduated from productivity, to communication, and finally to creativity. Sharma argued that data can help unlock creativity in marketing solutions. Sharma announced the advent of the Movable Ink Exchange, a new marketplace for integrations. Sharma’s implied message rang loud and clear. There can be no creativity without collaboration, another human quality.

Humanity matters

The final event of the day was a fireside chat with soccer star Alex Morgan. Morgan has had a long, impressive career in professional soccer, but she is perhaps best well known for her famous “drinking tea” pose when she scored in the semifinals against England in this year’s Women’s World Cup. Sharma asked her about her inspiration to play professional soccer and the media blowback Morgan received when she scored that critical goal against England during the World Cup. Morgan responded with mentioning the months of grueling training schedules that led up to that historical moment.

“When you score in front of 60,000 people, and millions of people are watching, and you realize your hours and hours of work have paid off, I’m going to celebrate my own damn way,” Morgan said to loud cheers.

These human elements — celebration, empathy and personal history — need to take front and center in marketing campaigns. If it sounds like advocacy for a liberal arts education, it is. The data can analyze, target, and filter, but it can’t build relationships, get to know customers, and put itself in their shoes. It’s time that they use the technology to leverage the best human qualities that make the connections that cause customers to engage, but to bond with brands.

This article originally appeared in DMNews. Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash.

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