In 2021, Statista recorded that there were 213.65 million companies worldwide. That means there are 200 million+ brands selling or providing services to people. And precisely, that’s who they are: people. But, ask any marketing executive, no strategy or sales plan ever refers to people as humans, rather, we call them consumers. While some might argue that the word consumer and human are interchangeable - we beg to differ.
Consumers = Transactions. Humans = Connections.
Targeting consumers rely on precisely calculated algorithms, analyzing patterns to understand who buys what, when, where and how often - but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Our standard marketing practices of price testing, A/B messaging testing, customer reviews and observing trends skim the surface as to what people want, but rarely why people make the choices they do. They give us the what but not the why. To decision makers, as long as marketing hits all the KPIs the strategy is a success; but in actuality, it’s a fad. It doesn’t crack the code on how to stand the test of time.
The missing piece of the puzzle are humans. People’s purchasing decisions are rarely a linear occurrence. Human decision-making is strongly influenced by emotions, needs, relationships that people experience or want to experience with a brand. As much as marketers try to patternize the process, it’s an individual path. Focusing exclusively on the transaction or conversion point in the journey is comparable to taking a test and analyzing your test scores without understanding the material or how to study for the test prior to taking it. The consumer-approach skips the best part - the part that examines how life shapes each individual. Beyond that, it completely misses the opportunity to build a lasting connection between people and brands and make their product/service part of someone’s life experience.
The Trifecta: HX = UX + CX + EX
For Gen-Zs who are faced with a paradox of choice in nearly every single decision they make, brands have to stand out. Furthermore, this generation wants to feel like they are part of something bigger. That their choice of purchase has an impact on society. They want to feel like their voice and actions have an influence on others, and on how it reflects on who they are as a person. Focusing on just the user experience or customer journey simply does not capture the complexity of a Gen-Z thought process. The human experience was designed to put humans first - combining three marketing principles: UX + CX + EX.
UX (User Experience) - is how a user interacts with and experiences a product, system, or service. It measures the ease of use, utility and efficiency. - Laura Jurevica (source).
CX (Customer Experience) - is the impression your customers have of your brand throughout all aspects of the consumer journey. - Laura Jurevica (source). It’s how marketers monitor each and every interaction a customer may have with the brand.
EX (Employee Experience) - is an analysis of how the environment and culture drives or motivates employees to carry out brand purpose and values. If the people creating the brand and promoting it aren’t approaching it from an authentic place, by the time the product or service reaches the hands of humans, the brand purpose is diluted.
HX is the secret sauce to approaching marketing for the new generation and beyond. It can be defined by three main values: empathy, conversation and purpose. (source)
- Empathy “is the ability to connect with other people’s emotions. It allows us to understand the importance of something, even if it isn’t important to us.” Instinctually, humans want to feel understood in any situation and the brands that put themselves in the shoes of their everyday customers and the challenges they face are and will form lasting relationships.
- Conversations are designed for two way communication. The ‘top down’, brand has the power approach is old-school. The interaction between brands and people should be reciprocal. Brands need to show that they care about people, listen to what they have to say and enact change based on their feedback. Without taking the time to listen to human needs, a brand will never truly fill the gap.
- Purpose is invaluable. At the end of the day, brands are run by humans and humans go through trial and error and make mistakes and have good and bad days. No brand is perfect. Brands that demonstrate authenticity are able to remind the public that their brand purpose and strategies are built by people and for people.
Caring for people seems so obvious, but why is it so challenging for marketers to execute? For starters, it’s more expensive, more time consuming and more effort, but the returns from this approach surpass any quantitative reasoning. It dissects everything numbers explain. HX explores the person as a whole: who they are, who they want to be, what the brand means to them in the context of their life. It’s no longer about understanding the consumer at an isolated point in time - for example, standing in front of the dairy aisle and only thinking about which brand and type of milk to buy. Instead, the human-centric approach considered other aspects of life such as the two-year old sitting in the shopping cart throwing a tantrum and distracting mom, or the high-schooler who’s thinking about going plant-based because her friends are doing it but doesn’t actually want to try. Humans have lives and lives impact decisions.
In short, consumerism hyper focuses on one thing: getting a human to buy buy buy. Whatever it takes, they just need to buy. HX considers one of the most unpredictable thing: life. It doesn’t neglect the ebbs and flows of human behaviour and life events, instead, it embraces it. Gen-Zs have encountered and continue to encounter highs and lows. We’re okay with change, we're always ready to adapt - so why can’t brands do the same?
The new wave of marketers should keep one thing at the forefront: people are simply human.
Instead of asking ‘is it good?’ or ‘is it bad?,’ let’s start by asking, ‘is it human?’ (source)