4 Strategies for Human-Centered Marketing

(Episode 2 of 2 with Mark Schaefer)

4 Strategies for Human-Centered Marketing

Welcome back to another episode with Mark Schaefer. In the last episode, we talked about Mark’s book Marketing Rebellion and the need for human-centered marketing. Today, we will continue the discussion of Mark’s book by discussing four strategies for human-centered marketing: constant human truths, values-based marketing, customers as our marketers, and honesty and consistency. We’ll also discuss tectonic shifts and fractures in the status quo.

1. Focus on Constant Human Truths


Many companies Mark consults with feel overwhelmed. There are so many options and things to do. He often tries to emphasize the constant human truths, which he discusses in his book. These truths are that people want to be loved, belong, be acknowledged, and be respected.

Mark said we are too focused on technology. We need to put these human truths first, and then we can think about how technology can help us provide for these needs. “I’m not anti-technology. [But] I’m anti-technology when it creates barriers with our customers. When we do things like spam them or send them robocalls, that will just tarnish our brand,” Mark said.

Being acknowledged is one of these important truths. In Mark’s book, he discusses statistics that say 50% of young people said, “It’s important for me to be acknowledged by my friends on social media,” but 60% said, “It’s important to be acknowledged by my favorite brands.” It is more important for them to be acknowledged by their favorite brands than their friends. There’s a longing to be acknowledged. 

The pandemic has made a lot of these needs more prevalent. People are feeling more lonely, isolated, and depressed. Mark believes companies have a role to play in this. Customers are telling us there’s a way to engage with them: give them a place where they belong.

2. Consider Values-Based Marketing


There is a lot of research from companies like Deloitte, Accenture, and McKinsey that shows loyalty has been declining over the last 20 years. 87% of our customers are “shop around” customers. Research by Harvard shows that almost all of our traditional marketing activities are not building loyalty except for one: demonstrating shared meaning or shared values.

A well-known example of this is Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Some people think Kaepernick is a patriot and a hero and others think he’s not. Nike made a deal to do a line of clothes with him. When they did that, Nike’s value went down by about $4 billion in one day and people were burning their merchandise in the streets. Two weeks later, however, Nike’s valuation was even higher than it was before.

Mark had a friend who said he was so mad he was never going to buy from Nike again. Mark told him, “They don’t care.” Nike realized that in order to earn their audience’s trust, they have to show what they stand for. 

Nike also knew that Adidas was trying to make a deal with Kaepernick. They had both looked at research to find out what their customers believe, and they were looking for ways to align themselves with those beliefs. It was a race for shared values.

This is a very, very effective way to create loyalty, but it’s not for everybody and it’s not necessary for every company. We don’t all have to express our political or other views. If we think about all the products we’ve purchased in the last two weeks, how many of them do we know where they stand on political or other issues? For me, it’s none of them. Values-based marketing can work very well, but it isn’t necessary for every brand and many brands do well without it. 

Research by Harvard_Blog

3. Embrace Customers as Our Marketers


In the past, we were the markers; we viewed ourselves as the marketing team and the marketing agency, and we decided how to market our brand. There is a fundamental shift happening as our customers become our primary marketers. As we discussed in the last episode with Mark, two-thirds of our marketing is occurring without us.

As Mark found this research for his book, he was overwhelmed by how wrong we were in the past. He thought, “I don’t know what it means to be a marketer anymore,” because the customers have control now.

Instead of trying to hold on to this control, we should embrace it and earn our way into being part of the dialogue. We shouldn’t bother, annoy, or interrupt our customers. We should let them speak and then join the narrative.

Many people are in love with content marketing, but the content has no value unless it’s seen and shared. Mark said, “The value is in transmission. It’s getting that story, getting that content, to move in that two-thirds. That’s where the marketing is occurring.”

4. Be Honest and Consistent


A long time ago, Mark realized he can’t depend on social media, Facebook’s algorithms, Google, or SEO. There are thousands of other digital marketing consultants out there, so he’s never going to have a number one ranking on Google or beat out the richest competitors. He can only depend on himself.

Mark creates content that is so honest, it’s unmissable. People know from his content that he doesn’t have an agenda. He’s just trying to find the truth; he’s on the journey with them through the good, the bad, the success, and the failure. He’s consistent through it all.

We often think that success will happen overnight, but most often success comes from consistently showing up. 

Mark shared the example of a band called the Black Keys. Before the band was big enough to play arenas and sell out Madison Square Garden in 15 minutes, Mark had the chance to talk to them when they were playing shows for about 1,000-2,000 people. Mark asked the drummer, “What was the catalytic point that took you to the top?” The drummer said, “There wasn’t one. We’ve been touring for seven years, we’ve made seven albums, and every year we do a little bit better.”

Hard, consistent work will eventually lead us to where we want to be. Mark said, “There is no overnight success. You just [have] to keep on working, working, working [with] patience. Consistency is more important than genius.

Gain Momentum through Fractures in the Status Quo

Consistency is _Blog

On this show, we talk a lot about tectonic shifts or changes in the business landscape we can leverage to help us grow. Mark talks about a similar idea that he refers to as fractures in the status quo. Like tectonic shifts, these fractures can lead to great success.

Fractures in the status quo create new and unmet or underserved customer needs and provide opportunities when we can meet them with our core competencies. When our initiative meets that fracture, we can burst through it with all our might and speed to create winning momentum.

Bill Gates was able to leverage one of these fractures. He had access to early computer prototypes as a teenager, allowing him to learn how to code—his core competency. When the fracture came, personal computers, Gates leveraged that competency to build software and find success.

We need to be aware of our own core competencies and the fractures or shifts happening in the world. Then we can leverage them and gain momentum.

Mark’s Manifesto

While Mark was writing Marketing Rebellion, he reached about the halfway point and realized there was no way people would be able to remember everything he was covering. Mark challenged himself to write a 10-point summary of the first half of the book. This summary became the Manifesto for Human-Centered Marketing. A hand-drawn copy of this manifest is available here. We should also create manifestos to communicate our core mission in a way that will inspire our audience and help them remember what we’re about. 

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Mark for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

1. People want to be loved, belong, be acknowledged, and be respected. We can help fill those needs for our customers by acknowledging them and creating a place where they belong.

2. Almost all of our traditional marketing activities are not building loyalty except for one: demonstrating shared meaning or shared values.

3. Customers are in control of our marketing now. Instead of trying to hold on to this control, we should embrace it and earn our way into being part of the dialogue.

4. Consistency is more important than genius.

5. Being authentic and consistent with our customers will help us gain big success little by little.

6. Fractures in the status quo provide great opportunities for us to gain momentum. We need to be aware of these fractures.

Connect with Mark

To learn more about or connect with Mark:

-Connect on LinkedIn

 Visit his website at BusinessesGrow.com 

-Check out his book Marketing Rebellion

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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