Reliable, trustworthy, helpful; are these words that you might use to describe your ideal partner or your ideal brand?

The fact that these probably appear on both lists means that our relationships with brands are much more complex than someone might first think. As a brand it is important to recognise this, and as no relationship can be one-sided, it becomes your job when presenting your brand to the world to demonstrate these qualities.

In The Human Brand the author begins by asking users to think about some of their favourite brands; when you do this the words you use to describe them are not simply terms about the high quality product, but will also be words you might associate with a close friend or family member.

Why is this important?

People don’t just want to buy a product. People want to build a relationship. To do this, you need to be able to speak to your audience directly in a way that is relatable. Generating brand loyalty is fundamental to guaranteeing repeat customers and ensuring that you will be the brand of choice for all their recommendations to friends and family.

By building a relationship in this way, your brand moves away from being just a website or store, and instead becomes human.

3 steps to humanise your brand:

  1. Understand your Audience
  2. Understand your Brand
  3. Understand the Context

Understand your audience

To develop a way to speak directly to your audience, the first stage is understanding exactly who that audience is.

Think about what your customers are doing when they read your site, and make sure your content is suitable

There are multiple ways that Google Analytics can help you to identify who your customer is; it can provide demographic information like below:


But if you’re looking for a little more insight then you should look at some more granular data to answer the following questions:

  • Are your visitors using desktop or mobile?
  • What time do they tend to visit the site?
  • How long do they spend on it visiting multiple pages?

At we’ve learnt that most of our website traffic comes comes during the work day from those using a desktop computer; visitors are likely to be professionals (as seen above: males between 25 and 34) who often visit just one page of our blog.

This shows that the blog section of our site is being used specifically to solve queries that people have, so any content strategy behind the articles we’re writing need to tackle the most common digital marketing problems people are having in order to be meeting the needs of our readers.

Compare the profile of your audience, and similar brands’ audiences, to build a typical customer persona

Whether you’re researching your own brand, or looking at larger competitor brands, YouGov Profiles provides a detailed breakdown of the demographics it believes to be true of your audience.


In this case, you’ll learn the typical customer of Chase Distillery enjoys Formula 1, is interested in politics and tends to work in Insurance, Consulting or Business sectors. With this in mind, a marketing department can build up a clear image of the customers they’re targeting (or the customers they’re not reaching yet) to develop a well-informed strategy.

Understand your brand

There are two common assumptions when creating a tone of voice that may result in your brand missing out on what it was that your audience really wanted:

  1. Tone of voice must be the same across every platform
  2. Tone of voice is the same as the main audience persona

The difference between tone and voice

Commonly these two get lumped together for brands, but when forming relationships with your audience it’s important to realise that these are two distinct features.

If you’re telling your friends what you did on the weekend, the content of the story won’t differ too much from telling your colleagues, but the way you tell the story in both cases may be very different.

Voice should be the core of your messaging, your thoughts on certain key issues and the underlying principles you want to communicate.

Tone will differ based on which part of your audience you’re talking to and on which platform.

Handling a complaint on Twitter will need to be handled with a much more serious tone than saying thanks for positive feedback via email, although both may be emphasising the business values of a high quality service.

Audience versus brand

After you’ve spent time identifying the main personas in your audience and how they interact with your product, it’s easy to skip the time spent developing your own brand’s persona and assume the two to be the same.

Look at your own friends; you’re not clones of one another so why would this relationship be any different?

Often people look for qualities they aspire to, or a level of knowledge that they themselves don’t have when they’re building relationships with brands.

Your brand needs to account for the characteristics in the personas and then be a better version of these that people will want to associate with. Position your brand as a relatable expert in your sector and you’re likely to see your popularity soar.

Understand the context

In an ideal world the people who spend time on your website, follow you on social media, and buy your product will all be of a very similar demographic. But it’s rare that things will work out like this in real life.

Whilst your tone of voice might be perfect for your audience, this is ineffective if you’re not getting the right people clicking through to your site in the first place. Research shows that behaviour in the SERP can be different depending upon multiple characteristics, for example gender can impact typical time spent on page and scrolling patterns:


(Gerald Murphy did a great talk about this at BrightonSEO in September; you can view his slides here)

When building a keyword map, identify which part of the buying cycle each keyword is at as this will help each page to be categorised into a type of query too. Once you know which pages point to each part of the buying cycle you can ensure you’re making the most of your meta titles and descriptions in the SERPs.

For example, people spend the most time on the SERP if it’s a navigational query so these pages really need to draw you in. Transactional queries have a quick click onto page so the title really needs to grab the searcher’s attention, and things like rich snippets will add even more value here.

As a brand, building relationships can be one of the hardest challenges you face, but it will be worth the time investment to do so. Brand loyalty is the ultimate marketing tool for any business; it ensures repeat customers, recommendations to friends/family, and also will make customer’s more understanding of any issues you may have with a product.

If you’re willing to work hard towards making your brand human and understanding those who interact with it, then you’ll be able to reap the rewards down the line.