Humans have a love affair
with technology. Since our most
primitive days, we constantly are at work creating new tools to help us with
our work, communications and personal lives.
As a child of NASA parents, I have a particular fondness for aerospace
technology and all the possibilities it creates. Yet, with all the exciting and life-changing
technological advancements we’ve achieved, I wonder whether it’s becoming
too easy for us as humans to solely rely on the tools at the expense of
cultivating and maintaining the “real” relationship with one another. For individuals, the answer will most likely depend
upon the intentions driving one’s use of tools such as Facebook, Friend Feed
and Twitter. But for brands, there may
be a much greater temptation to let these tools be the focus instead of the
real customer relationship they can help create.
During a recent interview by
Francois Gossieaux of Beeline Labs (@fgossieaux),
Porter Gale, CMO of Virgin America (@porterVA), was
asked what steps the airline had or was taking to “humanize the brand.” In her response, Ms. Gale talked about
turning the airline category upside down, and shared a number of examples along
the customer experience –state of the art aircraft with free wi-fi that guests
can truly relax in, seamless check-in procedures and highly personable
staff. She went on to discuss how Virgin
America uses digital to connect and help their customers improve their lives –
stressing respect and connection as integral components along with innovation. I think Ms. Gale nailed it – brands need to “humanize
themselves” by seeing digital as a means to help their human customers live their
According to Random House Dictionary (via Dictionary.com), the act of “humanizing” is to “make human, kind or gentle” and “to become human or humane”; actions that are characterized by tenderness, compassion, and sympathy. All of us want to be treated in a humane way. So of course, we expect that humane treatment to be conveyed in our use and interactions with technology. We see this desire played out through “humanized” robot characters from popular science fiction television and movies – Data from Star Trek, Rosie Robot Maid from the Jetsons, Dot Matrix from Spaceballs, C3-PO from Star Wars and K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider to name a few. Besides being quite entertaining – I think there are some valuable lessons that brands and the rest of us can take away from our robot friends when considering how to use digital channels to create and nurture real relationships:
The Jetson’s housekeeper – Rosie always demonstrated respect for all members of the Jetson Family. She maintained a quality focus on the housekeeping tasks at hand, but not at the expense of inquiring on the more personal concerns and needs of her human family.
Lesson for Brands – ask
thoughtful questions and be a good listener while delivering your product or
Lesson for Brands – ask thoughtful questions and be a good listener while delivering your product or service
Princess Vespa's droid-of-honor, dedicated to keeping her safe from political as well as overly amorous threats. Dot Matrix was part best friend, part mom and routinely shared her own experiences in order to get Princess Vespa to open up and share her dreams, fears and desires.
Lesson for Brands – focus on
making consumers comfortable and they’ll invite you in to play an important
role in their lives
Lesson for Brands – focus on making consumers comfortable and they’ll invite you in to play an important role in their lives
C3-PO was the protocol droid designed to serve Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. While C3-PO is full of information and other useful technical skills, he at times takes his opinions too far and offends his companions. He learns quickly that the only way to maintain his friendships is to apologize quickly and earnestly.
Lesson for Brands – you’re
not perfect; own up to your mistakes and proactively make amends
Lesson for Brands – you’re not perfect; own up to your mistakes and proactively make amends
K.I.T.T. was the mobile robotic crime-solving sidekick of Michael Knight. K.I.T.T was a truly functional part of Michael’s life – as transportation and information provider and in many cases life-saver for all too many sticky situations. K.I.T.T. always anticipated and responded to his partner’s most critical needs.
Lesson for Brands –
relationships are a responsibility; you need to be there for your consumers in
the small moments as well as in the big ones.
Lesson for Brands – relationships are a responsibility; you need to be there for your consumers in the small moments as well as in the big ones.
Lt. Commander Data was one of Captain Piccard’s top execs and beloved shipmate on the Starship Enterprise. Throughout his tenure, Data experienced ongoing difficulties understanding various aspects of human behavior and was unable to feel emotions or understand certain human idiosyncrasies. This often caused conflict with his peers and others who did not know him well.
Lesson for Brands – the
mechanics of life are not enough – it’s the abstract substance that makes or
breaks successful communication with others. For a full recap of Porter Gale's and other CMO interviews, check out CMO 2.0 Conversations.
Lesson for Brands – the mechanics of life are not enough – it’s the abstract substance that makes or breaks successful communication with others.
For a full recap of Porter Gale's and other CMO interviews, check out CMO 2.0 Conversations.