Making real connections in a digital world


Just because you’ve gone digital doesn’t mean your job is done. Now you need to ensure that your ‘bot’ actually sounds like somebody. This is how.

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Every now and then an event occurs that changes the world in a significant way. For 2020, COVID is that event.

The virus has simply accelerated an earlier adoption of a digital world. Changes towards ‘going virtual’ were, in fact, very much underway. We’ve just got there much faster (and overnight in many instances) than ever envisaged. Every brand now lives online, and if it doesn’t, well, surely its days are numbered?

But just because you’ve gone digital doesn’t mean your job is done. The move online will have eliminated many face-to-face interaction opportunities for brands, and although a smiley emoji does a good job of representing an emotion, it will never replace how an actual smile can make a consumer feel.

So, now you need to ensure that your ‘bot’ actually sounds like somebody, like an actual human with a heart and blood pumping through ‘its’ veins. You need to make sure your interface has a ‘face’ that looks like it can be trusted, and that your market values and resonates with your brand’s values.

That’s where the new challenge lies. And it’s a tough one, as it requires you to dissect your brand’s DNA, and really think about ‘who’ it really is, what it stands for, and what makes it different. Here are three suggestions that can help.


Sound like someone

Just because your market will be viewing your brand from a device, doesn’t mean it should sound like a machine. Your brand’s personality should shine through in all the interactions you have with your consumers, whether that be in a print ad, on social media or via an emailer.

Like your brand has a logo and a specific colour palette, so it should have a tone of voice. Think about Nike – always positive, inspiring and motivational. Pushing people to do their best. Or innocent – conversational, playful, honest, and witty. Your brand’s tone should be unique to you, and reflect your personality, express your values and reveal your point of view.

Having a tone of voice your audience can relate to helps build trust and enhances your brand’s credibility. Get your audience to buy into your tone, and they’re more likely to buy what you’re selling. And, if you’re really good, become a long-term brand advocate!

Just do you

Along with ‘pivot’ and ‘new normal’, ‘authentic’ is a runner-up to winning 2020’s Marketing Word of the Year award. But unlike the former, this one will be here to stay. According to an annual global survey conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics, 82% of Gen Z trusts a company more if the images they use in their ads are of actual customers.

Let’s be honest, an audience knows when they’re being sold to, and they can spot a brand jumping on the trend bandwagon from a mile away. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of photoshop, but keep it believable and true to your company’s values. If your spokesperson is 40, they more than likely have a wrinkle, or two. And you know what, that’s ok. Don’t alienate your audience by removing it.

Humans often make mistakes, and if you want your brand to have the human touch, own up to your brand’s mistakes, make fun of yourself, tell real stories that your audience can relate to, have a point of view and stand up for what you believe in. No human is 100% perfect, like no brand is 100% perfect. So keep it real. Your fans will appreciate you for it.

Be good

The beginning of the pandemic saw multiple brands ‘pivot’ their production lines to make sanitizer for the needy and soup for the poor. Many other me-too brands followed suit soon after, and whilst it showed us that there are businesses that do have hearts, it shouldn’t take a crisis to make them prove it. Newsflash: there were starving people before COVID hit too. Simply put, brands being same-y, same-y in their CSR endeavours conveys a lack of integrity, and consumers just won’t tolerate this nowadays.

Doing good for the world doesn’t have to cost the earth. In a recent interview with Graham Turner, Social Media Lead of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, on staycations being a 2020 trend, he told us how they changed their strategy to supply a service to keep their audience “engaged during lockdown, to combat boredom, to help with their mental wellbeing, and to provide tips and simple advice for their quarantine life… This is not marketing to sell future holidays; it’s marketing to take care of your community.”

So, if your brand is in the position to, then put your core values into practice, and do some good for the world. And not because you think it will help you sell more products, get you more ‘likes’, or because it’s tax deductible. Do it because any good person would. Giving back feels good. And brands with a genuine appetite to give back, and for the right reasons, are those that now stand out for the right reasons.

So what now?

As the world becomes more digital, the chance for real-life human interaction is going to become less, so brands will have fewer opportunities to influence their audiences. But humans are driven by emotion. The ability to feel. So when you do get the opportunity to engage, talk to your audience on their level, be authentic and make them feel genuine love for your brand.

Humanizing your brand is by no means an easy task. A personality is highly complex, and likewise creating a clear persona for your brand will require strong direction and creative flair. But what a great opportunity to really look at its DNA and establish ‘who’ it really is (something we can always help you with ;). Get it right, give it the ‘human touch’ and you’ll still be making real connections in this digital world. A little something we’re all longing for these days.

Author bio


I'm an award-winning entrepreneur, a passionate business mentor, and I believe that great things can happen when we work together to help others.