Whether organizations like it or not, marketing trends are requiring brands to rethink how they tell their story and consider engaging their audience in a very human way. These days, your audience wants to connect with people — not a logo, not a suit, not a paragraph full of verbiage above a college reading level.
What does this mean? It means you’ll notice C-level executives are designating more space in their bios to family and volunteer activities over degrees and certifications. Retailers are leaning towards customer-generated videos showcasing their products; not high budget advertisements created on a stage. Restaurants are giving sneak peaks into their kitchens rather than boasting that you can’t get a reservation there for two more years.
Where’s a nontraditional place I see this working really well? Animal shelters. Let me explain. Tell me which these dogs you’d be more willing to adopt if you were searching local shelter websites for a new pet:
Dog 1: Cinnabon, a two-year old mixed terrier, was returned to our shelter from a previous owner. She’s afraid of loud noises so potential owner must have a 6 foot fence as she tries to escape when startled. Because she’s so nervous, she must be adopted by someone with no kids, or children over 12 only. She’s scared of men and we think she has some sort of allergy that requires daily medication. OK with other dogs, we aren’t sure about cats.
Dog 2: Hi, I’m Baci, a two-year old petite terrier mix ready to join a family of my own! I’m a little nervous in my kennel, but when the nice shelter volunteers bring me into their office, I love napping on their couch, cuddling up next to them, showing my new friends how I can make stuffed toys squeak, and convincing everyone to give me treats with my puppy dog eyes! It takes me a few minutes to warm up to people, but once I do, I’m a really good listener. My friends at the shelter say I LOVE food and am easily trainable provided you reward me with snacks– I already learned sit, stay and “high five!” I especially love when I get my allergy medicine in peanut butter (don’t worry, I only need it once a day, and only in the spring and summer)! I love other dogs and could run around with them for hours, but when it’s time to come inside, I just want to nap with you on a nice comfy fleece blanket or couch.
Spoiler alert: Both descriptions perfectly describe my dog, Baci (who was once named Cinnabon in the shelter) at the time we adopted her. While description #1 tells us everything that’s “WRONG” with my dog in a third-person, somewhat cold, way; description #2 humanizes her and illustrates how she’d fit right in with the right family.
I know. You are thinking, “What if a man with 10 kids and a yard with a 4-foot fence came in to adopt her?” Here’s my response:
- Shelters aren’t just handing out dogs to every person that walks in without talking to them. You get fully vetted (pun intended) to ensure you are right match. My husband (this dude right here, who, you’ll notice has switched out his stuffy headshot for a more human “I’m just a lawyer hanging out being awesome and professional at the same time” look) and I visited Baci three times before the shelter let us take her home. Once as an introduction and to complete an application; once to see if she’d warm up to my husband; and finally a visit that included our dog Scooter to ensure they’d get along.
- Let’s say we weren’t a good match. That post still brought us into a shelter and the staff could have introduced us to a dog that did fit in with our family. Whether we walked out with Baci, or another dog, we were freeing up much-needed shelter space for other dogs needing the care and kindness of our local animal shelters.
What’s my point? Really I have two. From a communications perspective, I urge you to examine your brand and see if your message is connecting with your audience on a human level. From a personal perspective, please, if you are looking for a pet, consider adopting from a local shelter to rescue (shout out to Delaware Humane whose fabulous staff matched us with Baci, and South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, whose great work I see all the time).