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How brand humility can help drive success

Approaching an audience in a way that helps, instead of overly promotional content, can improve a brand's reputation and ultimate bottom line.

5 min read

Marketing Strategy



As you’re brainstorming a new content marketing campaign, the word “humble” may not come to mind. Marketing that happens over social media has a heavy emphasis on products and services, and it’s easy for consumers to feel like they are being slammed over the head.

Listen up, marketers. Blatant product plugging doesn’t work like it used to.

If your audience is engaging with you on social media and elsewhere, they want to get to know you and feel like you care (read: be in a relationship with you) before trusting you enough to make a purchase.

This means stepping away from yourself and acknowledging your audience’s human value and needs. It also means admitting you might not have all the answers and adopting a humble approach that simply asks, “How can I help you?” instead of saying “Here’s how I help you.”

As with any conversation marketing campaign, making a sale shouldn’t be your first goal and asking for a sale isn’t your first step. Social media was created to share stories and meet on the same level as your audience, not as a bully pulpit for selling. By adopting the following four approaches that emphasize the value of being humble, you’ll connect with the modern audience that values humility and wants to be part of your story.

Ditch the id

Being humble means letting go of your ego. Your “id” makes you feel like showing the world how great you and your products are, and how great your audience is for buying them. Resist the urge.

Think about what it’s like to meet someone at a party. Who would you rather listen to? The person who spends the entire time talking about his or her achievements and how great they are, or the person who asks about you and your interests, and who tells stories that you can relate to? Try to be that second person and stop talking about you in your marketing efforts. Instead, provide insight into what you’ve done to impact your audience’s lives and tell stories that relate with your audience’s experiences.

A social media campaign that uses this approach puts the customers’ product experience first. It tells a story about how an audience benefitted from using a product. This is the kind of story that puts the viewer and their needs first, and it can help set your brand apart from the white noise of product pitching.

Don’t pitch, teach instead

Remember that story you read in kindergarten about the little engine that had trouble climbing the hill, but kept repeating “I think I can” until he eventually succeeded? As a kid, you might have liked the story on its own without seeing it for anything more. As an adult, you see that the story was also a teaching moment, giving children a lesson about the importance of sticking to a goal and accomplishing it through hard work. Kids might not pay attention if you simply command them to work hard and stick to their goals (something most parents probably already know), but making a story out of a lesson might get you at least partway there.

Though your audience isn’t children (unless you’re selling toys or kids’ clothes, maybe), they still can get more out of a story that teaches them about the value your product brought, rather than hearing a command to buy that they’ll probably tune out. Companies that succeed in marketing today don’t pitch; they teach. Take a look at your product from a 30,000-foot view. Are you sharing the importance of your brand’s human value? Are you giving your audience something to talk about that starts a conversation? By telling stories, we humanize ourselves and become memorable, like that little engine we still recall all these years later.

Tell the right story

Stepping out of the spotlight, ditching your id and telling stories that teach isn’t enough if you don’t tell the right story. For instance, if you sell insurance and write a blog post about the difference between term and whole life insurance, with a link to click at the bottom taking the reader to your website, what are you expecting? There are hundreds of similar posts and sites on the internet, and you’re not offering anything that your audience couldn’t get elsewhere. You’re also asking for a sale without trying to emotionally connect with your audience.

A better approach, assuming you’re that insurance company, would be to tell stories about how your specific target audience could benefit from having insurance in the first place. For instance, Farmers Insurance created a website devoted to articles with titles like, “How Life Insurance Helps Your Family During a Divorce” and “How Life Insurance Can Help Provide Stability for Millennials.” Some of these articles don’t even have a “call to action” directing the audience to buy a product. This sort of campaign provides information people actually need and addresses their potential pain points. It’s about them, not the brand. What a great example of a company having the humility to know it’s not all about them or their product.

If your audience sees you as a person who exercises humility and cares enough to apologize in a warm, human way, they’re more likely to give you another chance. A company that fails and remains silent about its failure, on the other hand, is often seen as arrogant and unfeeling. There are few better ways to alienate your audience.

Kevin Lund is the CEO of T3 Custom. He is the author of CONVERSATION MARKETING: How to Be Relevant and Engage Your Customer by Speaking Human.

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