Corporate Eye

5 Branding Lessons from the Human Era Report

people paper chainA new report from Lippincott and Hill Holliday, Welcome to the Human Era, ranks the top brands that are leading the way in the Human Era. According to the report, a Human Era brand is actually much more than just a brand that is more human:

“It requires an authentic story delivered consistently through an inspiring experience. It requires hard work–establishing organizational values and commitments that are customer driven, while also driving them toward daily leadership decision-making and employee behaviors.”

Over the years, I’ve written about the importance of brand consistency, brand experiences, internal branding, and building a customer-centric brand repeatedly. The world of branding has changed more over the course of the past decade than ever before in history, because people have instant access to more information and communications channels than ever before. It takes seconds to verify a brand claim or ask thousands of people for their personal opinions about brand messages and experiences.

The five key lessons identified in the Human Era Report are lessons that I’ve been asking Corporate Eye readers to embrace in their brand strategies for years. Here are those five lessons along with links to just a few articles from the Corporate Eye archives to help you get a better understanding of why each is essential to building your brand:

1. Building brand trust is the top priority.

If consumers don’t trust that your brand will deliver on its promise in every brand experience and interaction, your brand is going to have limited potential for success.

Learn more:

2. Brand transparency is a requirement, not an option.

It takes seconds for a consumer to verify any claim that your brand makes using Facebook or Twitter. Complete transparency is vital to brand success in 2013 and beyond. In fact, it has already been vital for years.

Learn more:

3. Brand experiences rule.

You can’t expect to simply tell consumers something and have them believe it. You have to show them and prove it to them (repeatedly) through brand experiences. You have to allow them to experience your brand promise for themselves so they can share it and talk about it with others online and offline.

Learn more:

4. Internal brand advocates are your brand’s lifeline.

The importance of building brand advocates cannot be stressed enough. If your employees don’t believe your brand promise and don’t want to talk about your brand, why should consumers?

Learn more:

5. Brand storytelling is the secret weapon.

Brand stories add a human element to your brand and open the doors for consumers to become emotionally connected to your brand. Developing an emotional brand connection is a critical step to building your brand into the most powerful type of brand—a relationship brand.

Learn more:

Top Brands of the Human Era

Now that you understand what it takes to develop a more “human” brand, it’s time to learn which brands are getting it right. The ranking of over 1,000 brands in the Human Era report is based on input from 30,000 consumers across four continents. Each brand was rated on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being best) by its customers using three criteria:

  • Does the brand truly care about and care for its customers?
  • Is the brand trustworthy, real, and authentic?
  • Does the brand have a personality that is vital and unique.

You can see the leaders in several industries below:

  • Airlines: Virgin American and (score 6.9 – tie)
  • Grocery: Wegmans (score 7.0)
  • Retail: (score 7.5)
  • Consumer electronics: Apple (score 7.8)
  • Media and entertainment: Disney (score 7.9)
  • Restaurants: In-n-Out Burger (score 8.3)
  • Financial services: USAA (score 9.4)

You can follow the link at the top of the article to read the full report about the Human Era from Hill Holliday and Lippincott.

What do you think of the Human Era for brands? Is your brand human? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Image: Stephanie Hofschlaeger

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.