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Books and articles the staff at Wyse want to tell you about.

We caught up with Linda Bremkamp, Vice President, Strategic Planning at Wyse for an insightful chat about a book she recently finished titled Humans are Underrated by Geoff Colvin:

Q: How did you come across this title?

A: I was working on a brand planning project with a firm in the financial services industry when the CEO of that company turned me on to it. Once I heard that the book made such an impression on him that he asked his entire management team to read it, I knew I had to check it out.

Q: What’s the book about?

A: Humans are Underrated looks at how we’re moving to a human economy. Society has transformed from agrarian-based to industrial to the knowledge economy we’re in today. While the industrial era put a premium on brawn, strength and efficiency, the knowledge economy is built on innovation and information. On the horizon, the human economy will put a premium on people skills—things machines and computers simply can’t do.

Q: Now that you’ve read Humans are Underrated, why do you think your client encouraged his team to read it?

A: As the company was investing more heavily in data and analytics than ever before, I think he didn’t want to send the wrong message with those decisions. He wanted to stress how he still felt human capabilities are vital to the company’s success. And he wanted to emphasize that winning in the financial services industry will be no different.

Q: So what do humans do that computers can’t?

A: The author cites example after example from organizations as diverse as the military and the World Bank to illustrate how humans are far more effective than machines in doing things like building trust and confidence through storytelling and solving problems using creativity and empathy. And unlike machines, we use social skills like leadership and teamwork. It really struck me how all these things have do with relationships and emotion.

Plus, humans are the ones deciding where to apply the expanding computing resources. We set the goals. We choose the priorities. We even exercise our control by unpredictably changing our minds about these things, too. Humans determine the directions for technology—often those are collaborative decisions made by a group of people.

So really, the winners in the human economy will embrace the best aspects of technology and uniquely human capabilities.

Q: Why do you think society will put a higher value on people skills when so much of the excitement today revolves around advancements in technology?

A: Imagine design without empathy—design purely based on data. Without a genuine understanding of users’ problems and desires, there would be a lot of disconnected products and services with even more disappointed customers. Because humans use creativity and empathy, we will invariably make decisions that a computer wouldn’t because we know those decisions contribute to solving a need or making a connection. That’s the essence of how humans create value in a time when computers have become so capable and powerful.

Or take programmatic media tactics as another example. While computers can ascertain what products might be relevant to someone based on tracking his or her behavior, would that computer know how to deliver the message in a way that the ad won’t be perceived as an annoyance or an invasion of privacy? Even when the product is quite relevant, the brand risks becoming a utility if there is no feeling engendered in the ad. Humans can make that connection. The most sought-after will be those who can do it the most creatively and effectively.

This is a concept we saw emerge years ago in Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class where he talked about the rising market value of creative people.

Q: How do you approach this balance of information and emotion as marketer and a brand strategist?

A: Brands across every industry are relying more and more on computers to collect, aggregate and analyze data. The trend is to rely heavily on technology and data in the decision-making processes. As a strategist, I want to step back and consider how to translate this big data “muscle” in ways that help brands connect customers at the human level. Not having information can certainly be a weakness, but it’s how we as marketers—who also happen to be creative, empathetic humans—uniquely interpret and employ the data that creates the marketing advantages.

Without feeling, there is no brand, only detached transactional relationships where most often it’s low price or convenience that wins. So marketing needs to create experiences and messaging that create positive feelings with customers, to entertain them, to inspire them. In doing so, bands become more human and more relatable to their customers.

Q: Can you provide an example of empathetic advertising?

A: One example that comes to mind is a campaign Wyse executed for PURELL Hand Sanitizer. Research data proved, without question, PURELL was better at killing all kinds of germs that have the potential to make people very sick.

But we noticed through observing consumer usage that there was a lot of sharing going on. People use PURELL because they see it as a way to care for themselves and those around them. When you buy, use and share PURELL, you all stay well together.

So instead of making a campaign all about clinical effectiveness, we leveraged that behavioral insight that made users feel confident about PURELL and made them feel good about themselves as a person. And that‘s really what all the best advertising does. Without having this emotional aspect of caring, the technical superiority claim wouldn’t be nearly as compelling or memorable.

Even in typically cut-and-dried B2B marketing, we’re looking to make emotional connections between the brand and the customer. Wyse also works with a global manufacturer of motion control systems. We took the messaging focus off the parts and the technology and emphasized how engineers make life better by using their engineering skills and the client’s products to solve the world’s greatest engineering challenges. It’s storytelling, not selling.

Q: What advice do you have for brands as we move toward the human economy?

A: Given the exciting things that IBM is doing with Watson or what Tesla is doing with driverless cars, or how Amazon will soon be disrupting the food industry with its acquisition of Whole Foods, it would be foolish to underestimate what is to come from technological advancements. That still remains important and we should embrace and encourage that. But Humans are Underrated reminds us to appreciate both technology and that which is uniquely human. At the intersection of the new technologies companies are inventing or adopting for their businesses and who they are as people, is often a powerful potential source of competitive advantage. We just have to help them find it.

Linda Bremkamp is an accomplished brand strategist with roots in consumer behavior and media planning. She is a guest professor at Akron University and a guest lecturer for the Cleveland State University Executive MBA program.