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In a nutshell, there are emotional and functional attributes that contribute to what it takes for a brand experience to feel human to a consumer—the feelings your brand communications evoke, plus what your brand can do (the functional attributes) to drive that human perception. But how are brands achieving this?

It’s a good time to be in the communication business, when brands know more about the customer than ever before. The flip side is that consumers know how much data is being collected from them, and they expect brands to be smarter. “How can you know so much about me, and still not get me?” sums up customer sentiment.

Imagine we’re having a conversation. I listen to what you’re saying, and at the same time I am taking in a whole range of other signals of what I know about you, to build a more complete understanding of your context in the moment before I act by responding to you. And it all happens effortlessly, in a nanosecond.

Now think about what it takes to get close to a human conversation while achieving customer communication at scale. The same steps apply: Data management is about how good a listener you are to your varied data sources and signals. Understanding is the ability to interpret the relationships between these points and get useful insights about the customer’s context, which clears the way to act across channels with the message that’s most relevant right now.

At the Festival of Marketing panel I moderated, I heard what it’s like when it works. James Moore, General Manager UK Consumer and Global Customer Engagement for Trainline, clearly understands why context is critical for customers on a journey: “More than just ‘real time’ it’s more about ‘right time’ that’s the appropriate context for us: The right time to tell the customer what seat they are sitting in or what platform their train is departing from in about 20 minutes, and that’s the right time for us.”

That human context is also inspiring to Inés Ures, CMO of food-delivery service Deliveroo, who looks at customer “micro-moments” to understand how her brand can provide more value. Her team’s research led to the insight that there is a critical time between order placement and order delivery that can make or break brand perception. “We actually found that when you know your rider’s name, people suddenly like us more. The rider becomes a hero…Human brands are all about the right message at the right time that are about connecting humans to humans.”

At Braze, we couldn’t agree more, and we wanted a better understanding of these changing dynamics. Specifically, we wanted to put some data behind our instinct that more human communication in context would lead to better business results. So we commissioned a consumer study from Forrester Consulting last year, and introduced the Braze Brand Humanity Index (BHI). In a nutshell, there are emotional and functional attributes that contribute to what it takes for a brand experience to feel human to a consumer—the feelings your brand communications evoke, plus what your brand can do (the functional attributes) to drive that human perception.

And more human brand experiences aren’t just a nice-to-have: Human communication has significant impact on business outcomes. What we uncovered is that when a brand’s experience is perceived as human, the customer is twice as likely to indicate satisfaction and to express “love” for the brand and also will be significantly more likely to purchase, and to recommend the brand to others.

Customers are demanding that you take their context into account. To ignore their rising expectations means missing out on opportunities, or, at worst, putting your business in jeopardy. The right technology ecosystem removes complexity from the process and clears the way for human empathy and creativity to shine.

Sara Spivey

Sara Spivey is the chief marketing officer at Braze, a customer engagement platform that delivers messaging experiences across push, email, apps, and more. Prior to joining Braze, Sara served as chief marketing officer at Bazaarvoice where she oversaw global marketing programs. She is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, and earned an MBA from The Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College.