Your Competitive Advantage is Being Human

Photo via Fast Company
Photo via Fast Company

By Chance Shay, Communications Strategist

IDSD Recap – Keynote Speaker, Brian Kramer

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t familiar with Bryan Kramer before I signed up for Interactive Day San Diego. I did a quick Google search and found out he speaks a lot about social content sharing and is the author of Human To Human and the soon-to-be-released Shareology. Walking into the Sapphire Ballroom at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, I figured Bryan would have some good stuff to say, but when he walked out to The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up,” I knew he was my type of people.

Now, I don’t know if he came up with the H2H, or Human to Human term, but Bryan was the first person I’ve witnessed provide context as to what is at the heart of brands who understand they need to communicate H2H.

The three main H2H pillars are:

  • Simplicity
  • Empathy
  • Imperfection

Thinking of simplistic brands, IDSD attendees threw out Apple, Starbucks, Nike and a few others. Not sure Nike fits there, but we’ll go with it. Empathetic brands make customers feel like the brand cares about them and their wellbeing. Brands like Charmin, Southwest Airlines, The Honest Company, Toms, Dove, Amazon and Nordstrom. What I found was consistent with all of these brands is that they make it seem like they are the same as the customer. That relatability is a consistent connection to empathy. I also noted brand imperfections – think those seen within Fox News, Exxon Mobile, etc. – can work in their favor.


Again, the relatability factor: being flawed is a hugely human characteristic. That humanity will appeal to customers. The more brands embrace their relative humanity, the more likely they’ll be trusted.

What Bryan pointed out was that no brand combines all three. Disagree? Leave a comment with a brand you think meets all three criteria (Google doesn’t count).

Other key pillars brands can embrace include:

  • Connection/Love
  • Significance
  • Variety/Uncertainty
  • Certainty/Consistency
  • Growth
  • Contribution

It’s been shown that applying three or more of these to a campaign increases the potential for positive impact.

There are also a few main tones people use to communicate, including:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Disgust
  • Joy
  • Surprise

These make sense, right? Rarely do people share content that has a tone of boredom or basic satisfaction. Brands have to share in these emotional tones because that’s human, but also because when you share in these tones, most people will respond with the same tone. Sharing something with joy is met with engagement with the same tone. This doesn’t work with trolls, but that’s probably not your target audience.

Understanding we’re in a human to human economy and that human characteristics are key to effective communication leads us to one final question:

Why do we share?