Digital Marketing and the Human Touch

by Nikki Mattei

Technology, data and analytics are a vital part of any marketing communication strategy.
But I have always been an advocate for technology combined with the “human touch”. We mustn’t forget that we are dealing with real people with emotions. With all the data we have access to, we can find out so much more than just where someone lives or what their email address is. However, there is a danger that we just rely on these audience insights to make our decisions.

Marketing is a two-way relationship. It offers marketers amazing opportunities to “talk” to their audiences and to get their feedback instantly. It has spelt the end of “push” marketing and led to a more permission-based model. With the power of social media and networks, we have a continual, up-to-date source of insights from our supporters and followers. If we are clever, we can use social media to answer questions and form future engagement and content.

However, with this “open” approach, where our audiences can easily find out what we are up to, it is vital that we are authentic in everything we do. If brands are not totally honest and true to their commitments, the word will soon be out and could do possibly irrevocable damage in a matter of hours. This is why it is so important to keep on the same wavelength as your audience – to understand what bugs them and what excites them. Consumers and businesses know that we hold a lot of data about them and we will really annoy them if we get something wrong. Particularly, when it is something simple like a name. My husband, Bob, regularly gets an email from a company, who addresses him as Phil – and, even worse, they have it in the subject line. Basically, he is turned off before he has even opened the email. If you are going to use data in this way, you must be totally sure that is accurate. This authentic approach should be no problem for ethical brands as their transparency should be part of their USP. Also if transparency is embedded at the core of your business or organisation, then being honest with your followers and supporters should be automatic.

Relying on data to create audience profiles is not enough though. I still believe wholeheartedly in the power of face-to-face contact. I have read in marketing press how people often act differently when they are online – they use the faceless character of the internet to hide behind and may be be a bit braver than they would in person. Feedback you get from someone online is usually brief (particularly in the case of Twitter) and probably less emotional. When you have a conversation with someone, you can have an immediate two-way connection – you can confirm that you have understood them correctly before you continue. You can read other things like body language, which you can’t do through social media. Don’t they say that only a third of how we communicate is with words.

Despite the popularity of technology in our everyday lives, people still love to do things for real. Look at the continuing rise of live events like festivals, local markets, food events, the waiting lists for allotments. This is because we are living in the age of “experience”. People want to receive the best possible experience both on and offline.

This is why the human touch is still so important. People want to engage with other people and share experiences. They want to get “stuck in themselves”, cooking that perfect cupcake or finding out what it’s like to abseil down a mountain. TV, video and film will never replace doing it for yourself. I know it is a cliché – but people still buy from people. Humans buy with emotion and justify it with logic. Clever brands understand this and appeal to people’s emotions of feeling good about themselves. So, personally, I might buy an organic beauty product. I might say that I have bought it because it is organic and fairtrade, which is better for planet and people, but I won’t buy it unless I love its smell and it makes me feel good.

I have talked about digital marketing with the human touch for a few years now and so I was interested to read the latest issue of Figaro Digital. The whole issue is themed around how to use automated technology without losing the human touch. As marketers, we have a huge amount of information at our fingertips. But we need to use our imagination (at the moment still a human quality!) to make the most of this.

There is a good quote from Einstein to finish on:

“Information is not knowledge”

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