People don’t like the idea that brands should be more ‘human’. Instinctively we feel that a faceless corporation producing mass-produced goods shouldn’t – and can’t – embody human characteristics. Who are they trying to fool? But brands don’t stand for you as an individual, and nor should they try. Instead they should be aiming to represent a shared idea or view of the world. Why? Because the alternative is far worse: brands that would rather be inhuman. The kind of organisation that could calculate a profit but never understand the value of goodwill. When organisations humanise their outlook on the world, they have an opportunity to articulate the things we need more of.
Take AirBnb for example, a brand which advocates for ‘belonging’ and have managed to weigh into debates about the US-Mexico border and same-sex marriage. They have managed to use their brand to voice an opinion and – whether popular, right or wrong – it stirs the debate we need in civic life. It also provokes a person to think and feel something on these topics – and affirms a person’s belief by showing how common it really is.
Human brands can be a platform for ideas, not just for selling things to each other. The real feat is not in making a logo or name feel human, but in ensuring a company’s public ethos is the same as their private one. Because when a ‘human’ brand turns out to be a product of artifice, well, it’s ‘just’ branding – and nothing more.