The other day, I stopped to observe a man driving solo in his Audi car who, with one hand on the steering wheel, was gesticulating wildly with his other hand. Obviously he was “on” the phone, albeit hands free. Smiling to myself, I thought that he was most possibly Italian. However, it’s true that, with the mobile phone (without video), we don’t let the device change our habits, even while driving. Especially as the conversation becomes emotional, the hands and body get more involved.
But, how natural (and emotional) are brands in their digital communications? It strikes me as tragic how some companies (and the people behind the keyboard) can forget the human element in communications. It is almost like a thick rubber glove is layered over our articulations. The ensuing words are coated in synthetic feelings. This is one of the biggest risks in marketing automation, but can also be found in social media posts and comments, much less in emails and call centers.
Three big “hands off” errors in brand comms
- Timing. As much as our online communications are naturally asynchronous (dealing with factors such as time zones, connectivity, long list of other things to do…), we still need to accommodate the human timeline. Timing is important. The expectation for intervals in an exchange will vary from person to person and from platform to platform. For example, Snapchat is faster than SMS is faster than Twitter is faster than Facebook is faster than email. The time decay of a message needs to incorporate relevancy, context and flow.
- Stilted. The nature of human communication is organic and inevitably flawed. Seeking to be perfect, programmed and/or politically correct is bound to provoke disengagement. The challenge for organizations at scale is to craft a balance between process and fairness with organic and flair. The rational concerns of business must be tempered to allow a more emotional connection.
- Out of context. If being ‘out of context’ may also happen in real-life conversations, it becomes more tricky to be relevant and on message in a digital environment. Understanding well the person on the other end of the line is so important. A miscommunication can come from a lack of good data, using an inappropriate form for the receiver’s device or, most poignantly, not being aligned with the moment that the receiver opens the communication. There are tools to help make this happen, but ultimately, even with these tools, getting the communications right requires a lot of humanity, empathy, and testing & learning.
Getting your Comms right…
If the face-to-face conversation is always a function of verbal and non-verbal elements, a digital communication has other “elements” that impact the tone, intention and emotion. Syntax, timing, frequency and links are part of the digital “non verbal” signals. Knowledge of the usage habits of customers is incredibly important. It is remarkable how poorly some brands continue to communicate even with “loyal customers,” whose details, habits and desires should be captured. Personalization is a mantra that many agencies are touting, but for the vast majority, we’re far off from getting a message to resonate personally.
While some brands are destined to remain in a mass market, maximum efficiency mode, for other brands, which have designs on a stronger customer relationship, the opportunities are legion. Depending on the brand’s authenticity, the nature of the communication and the type of recipient, the equivalent virtual hand gestures one adds in do have a very important role to play in one’s digital brand comms. How can you add in emotion to your digital messaging?
Your thoughts and reactions?