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Published December 6th 2012

For Better or Worse, Modern Marketing Shows The Human Side of Brands

Yesterday, a colleague of mine brought a great presentation by Martin Weigel to my attention. It’s a succinct and damning critique of the misplaced jargon and unshakeable delusion surrounding much current marketing, specifically social media for businesses, executed with outstanding conviction.

Weigel boldly takes a stand against today’s “language of marketing”. ‘Audience’, ‘fans’, ‘love’, ‘relationships’ and ‘engagement’ are terms that the marketing ‘community’ (oh, there’s another, oops) use to death in pitches and strategies, and Martin is not at all happy about it. Some of his underpinning points are:


  • People don’t want to have a relationship with your brand, they don’t care about you
  • Brand relationships are extremely insignificant compared to human relationships
  • Your “fans” make up a small portion of your buyers and don’t really matter
  • Many marketers are incorrectly taking depth to be more important than breadth

Much of what Mr. Weigel says is quite refreshing and hard to argue against, particularly with how he presents it, backed up with relevant, powerful research. But, certain aspects did manage to get a rise out of me, as of course the creator wanted; “It takes a deliberately provocative stance and is a personal view”.

But, brands ARE people…obviously

“People’s digital participation is with each other. Just because people are participating with each other, doesn’t mean they will participate with brands.”

If social media has had any impact on relationships between people and brands, it is that it is now more apparent than ever that behind brands are people, just like any other people. Even looking just at Facebook or Twitter alone, we are reminded every day, in ways goodand bad, that brands are comprised of ordinary people just trying to do a job.

The more visibly human brands become, the easier people find it to establish relationships with them. Being real, human and transparent gives you the opportunity to be likeable and earn greater respect. Of course, not all brand teams have actually realised the importance of acting human yet and still hide behind sheer corporate dullness but those that have, and are doing so with warmth and charisma, are leaping ahead.

Through Brandwatch’s own blog and Twitter account in particular, it’s easy to see Joel, Jasmine and the rest of the team conveying their own personality through it.

This makes a big difference; it just does. It enables us to interact and have fun with people we mightn’t ever have spoken with, whether or not that person turns into a sale there and then.

Does that count for nothing? Without these means, our power to express our brand’s identity would be drastically weakened.

So, using social media to show you’re human is a branding exercise just like any other. W+K is a brand and, because I read and was impressed by what Martin said, I now have greater respect for the brand he is working behind.

If it wasn’t for the power of promotion and sharing via social, I doubt he would have got the response he did. But “People will not find your content” Martin dramatically proclaims. This seems a little finite to me, and I’ve certainly proven him wrong here if nowhere else…

It’s a long game

“Your brand’s health depends on lots of people who don’t know you well, don’t think of you much and don’t buy you often, if at all”

The implication of this to me is that you don’t need to worry about people’s deeper perception of your brand (maybe they don’t even have one), just do what it takes to make quick sales. I was immediately reminded of David Ogilvy’s belief that vouchers, discounts and all similar kinds of offers may bring in sizeable sales in the short-term, but alone will never create a strong brand with any degree of longevity.

“Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.” David Ogilvy


It’s the pursuit of that enduring, distinct brand perception that has led to marketers spending billions of pounds over the past few decades on creative and abstract ad campaigns they hoped would provoke thought, emotion and inspiration. How does a drumming gorilla sell chocolate?

Despite the much lauded differences of social media to other traditional means of communications, the goal of using it to develop a recognisable, sustainable brand should remain a central tenet. Communicating with the external world through our online content is, if nothing else, an amazing opportunity to bolster our brand and personality.

Being a social a company isn’t just about being active on social media

Yeah, a classic, isn’t it? Just to be kind, I won’t go into it, not this time…(it’s true though).

P.S. Martin – if you’re reading this, I apologise if you’re offended by the use of so many of your hate words.

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