In March, I’ll be joining my Accenture Interactive colleagues and thousands of our closest friends at SXSW’s Interactive Festival. Thematically, the Accenture Interactive team will be exploring how brands can harness technology to create more human experiences—that is, interactions, products, and services that are more intuitive, intelligent, memorable and engaging. From empathy to education and heartbeats to human design, we’ll explore inherent opportunities at the nexus of human behaviour and emerging technology.

In the era of omnichannel hyper-personalisation, advertising seems to be getting louder and more invasive, crowding in on our everyday lives for a chance at being noticed. The adage, “If a person spoke to you like advertising does, you’d want to punch them in the face” has never been more accurate. As a marketer and human being, I have made it my business to argue that we can do much, much better and to offer concrete means to achieving that end.

The customer is dead. Long live the human being. 
At Karmarama, we undertook extensive research around Human Experience. Buried behind credit cards, cookies, and browser history are living, intelligent human beings tired of being treated like transactions. The conceptual ‘customer’ is at the heart of most well-meaning business plans, but the very notion of ‘customers’ creates distance between marketers and human experiences. Our research revealed that people don’t necessarily want to be spoken to like a ‘customer’ – they want to be engaged as the living, breathing, well-rounded human beings they are. Unfortunately, the majority of people (81%) say brands aren’t quite hitting the mark yet. This means brands are also missing out on the sizeable commercial benefits—an estimated 47% increase in spend per customer, for example—of getting more human. Meanwhile, the individuals targeted by our marketing campaigns and slogging through our customer journeys have become weary of advertising and worn down by poor experiences.

Human experiences engender trust. 
The concept of human experience doesn’t need to get much more complex than what we experience in the course of a normal day. Our daily lives produce a spectrum of emotions such as love and excitement, at best, and frustration and anxiety, at worst. If brands can find a way to participate in and speak directly to these moments—with insight and empathy—they can become more than sellers and start to play a meaningful role in their audiences’ lives. Human experiences, such as such as being ‘regularly surprised in a good way’ and ‘being proud to be a customer’ act as key emotional drivers for people. Perhaps surprisingly, people perceive such emotional factors to be equally as important as practical considerations when evaluating brands. By treating customers as humans, with empathy and understanding, brands can create strong emotional bonds with their audiences.

Less is sometimes more. 
Research also suggested that a renewed humanity is important, even if it involves losing some of the efficiencies that technology has enabled. This dovetails with findings from our Accenture Interactive partner agency, Fjord, whose 2018 Trends Report suggests “Silence is Gold” and encourages brands to take a meaningful look at the moments where respectful quietude is more effective than even perfectly timed content. Departing from the tried and true science of optimised transactions may be the surest way to protect and grow a brand’s trusting relationships with people. With a return to storytelling and a commitment to speaking people’s language, we can demonstrate compassion and understanding for the breadth of brand interactions—good and bad—to build rapport and close the human experience gap.

Here’s a bit of good news: being more human is not that hard. In many cases it’s as simple as that gilded idiom, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Perhaps somewhere between Silence is Gold and The Golden Rule, we’ll discover that orchestrating a more human brand and marketing strategy comes quite naturally. When we begin to innovate empathetically, compassionate VR solutions will become as second-nature as picking up a stranger’s dropped belongings in public transit and empathetic design with be as effortless as propping the elevator door open while a frantic co-worker hops aboard. Our Accenture Interactive cohort is well known for creating the best experiences on the planet—join us at SXSW to explore how ‘best’ now also means compassionate, transformative, and considerate.

Jon Wilkins

Executive Chairman – Karmarama

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