Reaching Bottom: Trying to turn “humanity” into a buzzword

The Great Train Wreck of 1918 is an example of what happens when brands and  technology collide with humans. Tip: Collisions are not a great marketing metaphor.  (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

According to this article, “More than ever, brands are trying to behave like people.”

The AdAge writer teases out such a “trend” from the launch of advertising campaigns by two different brands that use the word “human.” And then, to stitch together the trend, the reporter finds a new ad agency using the term “Humanaut” as its name and as some form of existential explanation for its being: Says the founder about the agency, “Its platform is about exploring how ‘brands and technology collide with humans.'”

(Dear Reader: I really, really wish I was making this up or, at least, please let this be some form of satire is running that has duped me.)

In my opinion, the trouble with marketing is that, for too long, marketers have looked for solutions in the “collisions” that products and brands and technology have with humans (and all sorts of other metaphors that have marketers targeting, aiming, intercepting and, if those don’t work, “re-targeting” them).

Collisions are not what customers want. Collisions do not capture the essence of how humans want to interact with one another — or with humanized companies.


I suggest that anyone who wants to move from being a traditional advertising agency into being a “platform” for human interaction pick up a copy of a book that was written specifically for them 13-years ago, The Cluetrain Manifesto.

In that book, the word “Cluetrain” describes the train that was pulling out of the station, filled with people who wanted companies to treat them as humans.

That book was written for marketers and their overseers who think humanity is something that can be cooked up by marketers and put in content containers, like ketchup.

Here’s a line on the website from which the book grew: “…learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about ‘listening to customers.’ They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.'”

Again, that’s from a train that pulled out of the station 14 years ago.

Wouldn’t a better approach to marketing be remembering that we, even we marketers, actually are humans instead of attempting to pretend there are ways to out-source humanity to the buzzword creators.

I suggest that the humans who run companies remember that from birth, we’ve all been humans. No one should be able to convince us that they know more about being a human than we do.

We are not a humanauts. We are something far greater. And so are our customers.

We’d be better off talking to one-another than looking for the ways we collide.