“I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” These words by Maya Angelou speak to the virtues of true human connections.
In our advertising and aspirational messaging, advertisers and agencies often pull at the heartstrings to display brands’ values and to differentiate from competitors’ messages. These messages may imply meaningfulness in an effort to build trust, but they often fall short of the realized experiences that people ultimately remember.
Unfortunately, going through the motions of everyday work, our perspective can dwindle. We can easily look at client relationships as hollow pursuits, customers as conversions or click-throughs, brands as faceless corporations, and service experiences as trivial social exchanges. If we heed the words of Maya Angelou, those touchpoints shouldn’t be meaningless interactions; they should be golden opportunities to renew our humanity through shared emotional connections—engagements that can make for a healthier society.
For example, humans quickly “metabolize” purchases. Those purchases are often bereft of meaning; they’re more transactional than relational. Without meaning, the euphoria of the purchase quickly evaporates, perpetuating the need to purchase more. The purchase becomes merely a means to an end in the same way that devouring food when you’re hungry can be. But what if eating, or in this case purchasing, was more about savoring the experience? Why can’t purchases, and ultimately experiencing a brand, be more about enjoying the journey?
Pearl McCabe writes, “How does the consumer experience change after the purchase? What emotions are invoked during product use? How does the product fit into a new or existing ritual in consumers’ lives? And perhaps most importantly, what drives and motivates them to continue and share their experience?”
The movement towards localism and authentic sourcing is an emotional movement to inject meaning into these transactions. Why should I purchase meat from a big box store when I can support a local farm, interact and connect with a local citizen on a first name basis, and get quality, healthy meat to promote the area in which I live? This type of branding becomes more about the experience: From the moment a consumer even thinks about purchasing, they’re considering the product, the human connection, and how their purchase affects the world around them.
Delivering meaningful experiences is also good business. Humans make irrational decisions based on emotions. If we look at the importance of recall as a salient point to commerce, we see the best currency we have is empathy, honesty and love. When a consumer recognizes those aspects in a brand, they’re much more likely enjoy as well as share it with others.
“In the connection economy, trust and relationships are the new currency. It's not a soft thing you do in your spare time, it's the heart and soul of your business.”
--Seth Godin, author of Tribes