theHumanBrand2.pngCan it be that many of our behaviours toward others are informed by two simple, subconscious judgments?

...perceptions of Warmth and Competence?

"Yes," says author, speaker, and marketing consultant Chris Malone. And he's got psychological research to back him up. In the last few years, he's been adding to that research to suggest that the same is true for the way we view companies as well.

In fact, he says, "50% of consumer behavior can be explained by the basic human perceptions of warmth and competence." Obviously, if it is true, this single insight should reshape the way companies think about themselves and the people who buy from them, entirely shift the way they act, and even reframe the way they think about the latest must-have tool of the information age - a loyalty program and its coveted accessory, big data.


Malone's book (with psychologist Susan T. Fiske) The Human Brand outlines this basic principle and its implications, which formed the the subject of a talk I heard him give yesterday at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. It was excellent, and articulated a lot of things taking place under the surface of business that we too believe are reshaping the landscape. Some time ago, we even titled one of our blogs similarly: Brands are Like Humans.

The Human Brand is filled with stories of real companies which suggest the truth of Malone and Fiske's central theory of warmth and competence, but I'll leave that to the authors themselves to describe, right here: There is certainly a lot of a lot of relevance to explore, and much worth discussing.

I was equally intrigued by a host of other penetrating insights from the book and talk which had the ring of truth. Here are a few of my favourites:

  1. Dating back to pre-industrial times, social accountability was the basis for business relationships because almost all commerce was undertaken personally, through relationship. This was a good thing for loyalty, customers, and companies. However, the trappings of the industrial age shifted business away from relationships and the social accountability they included. Transaction was the new norm. This shift, along with radio and TV, led to the "middle ages of marketing" - the last 150 years of impersonal messaging which reinforced one-way communication and interaction between customers and still growing, now multinational companies.
  2. Today, business is undergoing a forced "relationship renaissance" driven by social media, where social accountability is returning to interactions of commerce.
  3. An incredible tool for pursuing relationship is being handed to companies on a platter - it's social media. But mostly, they fumble the opportunity it presents by simply churning out more one-way advertising and messages on those platforms rather than using it to connect with people.
  4. The Human Brand begins with a Human Culture, so treat and train your people well and bring them back out front.
  5. Companies must rebalance their priorities. Shareholder value must come below serving and relating to customers. This, it turns out, is really something that employees can aspire to, which in turn creates great results according to a wide range of metrics.

What do you think of Warmth & Competence and these insights?

What responses do these ideas prompt?

Does your company resemble a Human Brand? How could it improve?


Get the eBook

Latest Tweets