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Brands Need To Be Different, And That Requires The Human Touch

September 26, 2018

Jay W. Richards wrote a recent opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. His premise: automation will eliminate some jobs, but many consumers want (and are
willing to pay for) the human touch.

Here’s a telling line:

As ever more goods become cheap commodities, the economic value of the
human touch goes up.

Mr. Richards cites Starbucks baristas as an example:

You can make a decent cup of coffee at home for 20 cents… or get good coffee
at the office Keurig for 50 cents. Or drink a bottomless cup with free half-and-
half at your local diner for $1.50. Down the street, though, Starbucks baristas
serve labor-intensive coffee experiences to a stream of customers for a lot more money.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high

Barista in coffee bar shop wearing Scottish tam hat with coffeepot earring pouring milk making latte design Nessie Loch Ness Monster personal handmade artisan labor human touch

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highHe also cites the growing demand for organic and locally sourced products: craft beers, grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, farmers markets.

What does this trend mean for brands?blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Some people– not everyone, but some– want more than a commodity. They want an experience, something truly unique.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Seth Godin observes that market disruption (automation, Amazon, crowdsourcing) is a huge threat to any merchant who merely creates a commodity. He also notes that cheap is the last refuge for the marketer who can’t figure out how to be better.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Jasmine Bina of The Concept Bureau would change “better” to “different.” She cautions against falling into the “better” trap. Saying you’re “better” does nothing to distinguish you from competitors. Everyone claims to be better. You get lost in the crowd. Being different is what matters.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can’t create commodities and expect people to pay extra for them. Starbucks customers aren’t just buying coffee– they’re buying an experience, along with the attitude and the little things that come with it. They’re also buying a certain status, a certain set of perceived values. They’re making a statement about who they are.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Marketing professor Freddy Nager says that customers buy products and services for their own little stories— stories they hope will turn out well.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What’s the lesson for brands? Designer David Scott puts it this way:

In the end, it’s the brands who’ve figured out strategically how to make people
feel good and give them some sort of differentiated value that end up on top.
So it’s about the emotional coupled with the rational.
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Quick recap:

1. If you only offer a commodity, it’s a race to the bottom– because there will always
be someone willing to work more cheaply.

2. Many people want more than a commodity. They want an experience, and/or something personal that meets their needs– and they’re willing to pay for it.

3. Some people are making a values statement when they choose a brand. It becomes
part of their identity.

4. Brands succeed when they make people feel good, and help them live out their own stories (how they see themselves, their hopes and dreams)

5. Brands don’t succeed by being louder, more intrusive, or “better.” They succeed by being different.

6. All the above applies equally to brand content. You can’t be different and promise unique value if your content looks like everyone else’s.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highmilk coffee latte design Nessie Loch Ness Monster personal handmade artisan labor human touch for branding

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, just like your brand needs to be.

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Questions? Send me an email.

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