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Leonardo Chiodi

January 23, 2021

Image by Morgan Housel

Year goes, year comes and trend reports always attract the attention of those who like to know what to delve into for the coming months. A trend that seems to be unanimous in these materials is that companies - or brands, leaders, strategies - are more human. But where does this demand come from?


Yes. The rapid growth of the internet and social networks has made possible a proximity between brand and consumer never seen in history. This approach brought many benefits, but the very functioning of some social networks ended up becoming a trap for companies and - much more - for users (yes, understand the word "user" as you prefer).


Some companies understood their responsibilities when communicating. The responsibility to really pass on what matters, not just a product, but a "conversation".  


An example of who does this very well is Natura. Nat, your digital personification, is not just another way to serve your customers to facilitate the purchase of a product. It is a kind of "leadership" (not unique) of the brand in translating the mission, vision and values into concrete actions, not limited to a brief session on the organization's institutional page.


There are a few ways to humanize a brand. One of them, which is in evidence, is Brand Thinking. By relying on a totally human-centered and empathetic approach (Design Thinking), this method has the power to make the brand lead conversations and increase its value so that consumers really understand its message, not just its products .


Long before the digital revolution and traditional advertising was established, a brand was used to distinguish one property from another. The word "mark" is derived from "tição", a lightly burned piece of wood used to permanently mark properties. Eventually, branded brands were replaced by branded irons (also known as cattle branding), and brands themselves became synonymous with the term. Brands have become closely associated with handcrafted products, but are perhaps best remembered for their role in livestock. One farmer's cattle were marked with a circle, while another farmer's herd was marked with a square or other identifying symbol.

The brand idea evolved in the 19th century with the emergence of packaged products. As producers expanded their product lines and more competitive products became available, the business world adopted the concept of branding as a way to differentiate their packaged products from competitors. [Emotive Brand].


With the explosion of advertising and the introduction of studies such as psychology in marketing, brands began to embody more meaning than the company or product they were selling. The development of brand management, what we now call marketing, started in the 1950s. Later, brands developed personalities: they became movements and ways of living, representing not only the product or business, but the culture, employees, policy, beliefs and aspirations of the company.


You don't have to work in marketing to recognize that the meaning of a brand goes far beyond just a logo, but actually defining the term is more complicated. Why? As the brand concept expanded from cattle to product sales, it has continued to evolve with our changing culture. It conveys different meanings and impressions to different people at different times, often appealing to a person's emotions rather than their reasoning or logic.

We can distill the essence of a brand into three macro components: the business, the product(s) and the customers' perception of the business or product.


But it's not just the brand concept that has changed over time. The technological revolution has turned the old-school business development model upside down.  


old school model

Business → product → customer


New school

Customer → product → business

A very commented example is that of Dropbox. The company secured its initial customers based on a landing page before the product was launched, or even fully developed. Because the brand is what initially attracts customers today, the brand is more important than ever - and they need a strong sense of "why" to survive. Customers are no longer just looking for high quality products, but also investing in companies that are trustworthy​​ and that they represent something, an idea.


Companies face problems when they invest hundreds of hours in building a brand, but when the launch takes place, the customer does not receive the brand as planned. A more agile approach is needed. Rather than building a high-risk disclosure, ensuring customer validation at every step of the development process is critical.


But let's go back to Brand Thinking and how this concept differs from others.


Already known by many, Business Thinking consists of channeling several problems into a single solution. This type of advice usually involves a nice investment of a few million dollars by a company, and the solution is usually presented in a 500-page document. It's not exactly a user-friendly model.

Design Thinking has been developed over the past 20 years in response to the inefficiencies of Business Thinking. This model aims to understand the problem, or multiple problems, first. Then prototypes are quickly developed for various solutions and tested with consumers to determine which solution works best. You already know, we talk a lot about him here!


Brand Thinking, on the other hand, combines components from both models, channeling various problems through a single viewpoint, its brand. Thus producing several possible solutions. These solutions are quickly validated through testing and experimentation leading to the best possible solution.


This framework doesn't just allow you to think outside the bounds of traditional methods; it will allow you to rotate and implement changes at a much faster speed. Brand Thinking gives everyone in an organization, including its customers, the tools to filter all of their issues into a focused initial principle where everyone speaks the same language and seeks to tune into a conversation.


From there, the formation of a community that revolves around the brand, which follows the proposed conversations regardless of the product to be sold, becomes much easier. The organizational culture leaves the website and is materialized in actions, generating greater brand value and return on investment.


By the way, have you ever tried to create a vision and mission statement before? It can be a painful process if you don't understand your company's Brand Thinking. Trying to add meaning to the words to your mission or vision statement without having a clear image of the brand is like trying to build a house without a foundation first. Brand Thinking provides that foundation. It is much easier to work on a tone of voice, a communication strategy and its tactics in unison and in depth.


Consumer empathy doesn't come out of nowhere. It is a construction, there is a process (place a blog link) that is developed so that, at every moment of contact between brand and customer, from understanding to feedback on the purchase of a product, there is this identification.


Most brands cultivate only purchase and sale relationships of products or services with their audience. But, as we saw earlier, using concepts like empathy and humanization generates much more than instant profit. I explain why.   


Empathy: identification process in which the individual puts himself in the other's shoes and, based on his own assumptions or impressions, tries to understand the other's behavior. Yes, putting yourself in someone else's shoes is practically impossible. I don't feel someone else's pain, but by bringing them close, I can try to understand.


Humanize: make human, give human condition or form. Make it more human-friendly, understanding, kind, sociable.


To humanize a brand is to bring it closer to the human, with feelings, desires and expectations. It sounds obvious but it isn't. Welcoming someone at home, supporting social causes, making the lives of people with disabilities that limit them more interactive, or simply telling the story of real people. Such attitudes bring brands closer to people, make companies, in the eyes of their consumers, more human.


As a practical example, we have some names that stand out. Ben&Jerry's, activists in causes like the LGBT community and the environment, earn points with this audience. Companies such as Cabify, Uber and Airbnb, on the other hand, carry in their business model the concept of welcoming, giving space to the collaborative economy and evidencing care for the other, the reference point of sharing personal things – which demand affection, affection and care .


And it's not just in communication. Concrete actions, seen as aggressive by some eyes, have taken hold and generated a lot of positive impact for brands such as Magalu, which has carried out very important work in this regard, with positive trainee selection processes for black people. The brand was the target of harsh criticism from a sector of society, but it remained firm in its positioning, which made the defended idea solidify and its brand value rise.  


I'm not saying that brands should be the great ideological leaders of our society, far from it. But they must have a role. We hope the pubic will continue with its antennas connected. Actions, experiences and conversations that bring people and companies together.

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