So I just started reading this book, The Human Brand, and apparently we judge people, companies and brands by TWO things and two things only: competence and warmth.

Basically, can I trust this person?

And… is this person not an idiot enough to mistakenly ruin my life?

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes total sense.

Why would you want to form bonds with someone that either treats you like an outcast or whose mistakes you have to constantly clean up after so neither of you end up freezing to death or being eaten by bears?

(You wouldn’t. So you don’t.)

But normally, as the book points out, we don’t approach a person thinking “Is this person warm enough for my taste?” or “Is he competent enough for my standards?”

(Unless you’re on a date, and you’re totally making in-depth judgements like that every split second.)

Instead, you think “Ehhh, I don’t know. He seemed nice but something just felt off.”

You know, like when you show up to a networking event and everyone’s super smart and friendly, but you dread the idea of having to actually set a date with any of the people you met.

That is usually because the warmth factor isn’t there.

Networking events suck, in my opinion, because everyone there is just trying to get something out of everyone else in the room… therefore the warmth just gets sucked right out of it all.

As the author of the book points out in the intro, “For as long as anyone reading this book has been alive, big companies and the people who work in them have been in the habit of shaping our expectations in the exact opposite direction of our natural desires for competence and warmth.”

So think about it for a minute… what companies do you prefer to buy from?


If you’re human, you prefer the companies that make you feel good about yourself, your decision-making, and your community.

For example, unless you’re stone-cold, you don’t like Coca-Cola because of their manufacturing prowess. Instead, you like them because of their global message of human love and kindness… even though that message literally has nothing to do with their product. Their marketing gets you to associate it with their product, so you feel those same emotions when you’re holding one of their cans.

It’s genius, really. Because as the book also points out:

“Humans were never mentally wired to trust and enjoy goods made by ‘unknown hands.’… Before 1880, there were hardly any packaged goods or ready-to-wear clothing.”

Which is crazy, if you think about it. 200 years really isn’t that long in the scope of history.

But when we get into doing business today, we’re just so concerned with proving that we’re more competent and smarter than our competition.

But in this day and age, honestly, I don’t think competency is our problem.

Sure, there’s always the wannabes out there, but they’re fewer and more far between than we realize.

It’s the warmth that we’re missing.

So how do you create this warmth within your brand?

There’s a million ways and approaches that I don’t have time to go into right now, but try these things:

  • Spell out specific scenarios. Even if it might not be the “exact” scenario your reader has been through, they’ll project themselves onto it and feel like you “get” them.
  • Tell your own story… and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself a little bit.
  • Write like you speak. Like, actually write like you speak. I know everyone gives that advice, but we still continue to write in those boring-as-hell middle school paragraphs, don’t we? STOP IT. (If you can’t imagine yourself saying the exact thing you’ve written to your BFF, it’s time to stop and re-write it so you can. Periods, italics, and bolds are your friend.)

One of my favorite concepts introduced by the book is instant karma, which basically means that the way a person acted in business used to immediately influence how well he or she did.

That went away for a little while after the industrial revolution, but with online social networks and search engines, it’s back and better than ever.

BUT when we take a moment to relate to people with warmth and understanding, it’s almost as if the disconnect created by physical distance doesn’t even matter anymore.

copy power

So some food for thought:

What are some other ways you’ve noticed brands—big or small—weave in a friendly feeling of warmth into their online marketing? And how could that apply to your business model?

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