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Stay human | Thursday, 08th October 2015

The Switch top 5 Digital Brands

Written by Richard Muscat Azzopardi

This post has been a long time coming. You’ve been with us through all the course, and finally we’re about to wrap up what has been a super time for everyone involved.
As you might imagine, preparing a course like this is no mean feat; 32 lessons later, we’re still realising that there is much more to the human aspect of digital marketing than even we hoped we’d find.
However, if there’s one thing we realised from all this is that you can’t be a brand that markets itself as a human brand unless you have a truly human operation going on in the background.
Try as hard as you may, there is very little you can do to try faking being a human brand because communications are, ultimately, controlled by the board, and unless you can sell them the advantages of being human, you can never be human on their behalf.
We see this with quite a variety of clients. Even though we believe in the power of being human wholeheartedly, it is sometimes a hard sell for the management of companies who take themselves a bit too seriously.
And this is why we decided to end the series by selecting some of the brands that we feel are doing an amazing job with understanding, and executing, human digital marketing.


Dove has been getting human for ages. Some might say that they just play on people’s emotions and wish to be accepted, but when you consider their product lineup, it really starts to make sense.

Dove has a range of products that, in general, does not alter women’s appearance, so, to a certain extent, they had no choice but to be human. They have to focus on people being their best within their own skin, because that is what their products brings out.
Their latest campaign, for example, helps show that we all have something we feel we need to change about our appearance, but at the end of the day someone else might want just what we have.
The fact that they really get social doesn’t hurt either.Their  #realwomen campaign has been running for years and, to a certain extent, has an entire movement behind it today.

Humans of New York

Well, with a name like Humans of New York, we could not really leave this movement’s page out. The interesting thing is that HONY is a “brand” that was built exclusively around humans.
If we had to find one concrete example that human marketing works, it would definitely have to be HONY – “all” Brandon Stanton did was document the lives of humans who happened to gravitate towards the city he loves so much.
The internet just loved the fact that all he did was talk about humans. Granted, he does a brilliant job of it, but his success has been phenomenal.

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Human digital marketing is not only reserved to big brands – media outlets can use the model too. No matter how much stick they get, you have to admit that the people behind BuzzFeed took traditional media and humanised it.

By allowing a great deal of user generated content and giving it the same treatment as their own content, Buzzfeed’s editors immediately created a hub for content that feels human.

If this was not enough, Buzzfeed’s entire editorial policy seems to revolve around human digital marketing. Their content triggers emotions, is easy to share and interact with, and, most importantly, hits a spot with readers because it feels as if it’s not something you’d usually publish, but something you’d discuss with your friends in public (case in point).


Starbucks gets human. It does great job of both encouraging user generated content and of portraying an image of being a brand who cares about humans.

But you can’t show that you care about humans unless you really do (or unless you lie) – so Starbucks puts their money where their mouth is and actually does a whole lot of good to the community.

In this campaign, Starbucks promotes the fact that it helps its employees get a degree – something it’s been doing for a few years now. This is a tactic that hits so many aspects of human marketing that it must surely also be good for the bottom line.

By sending its employees to college Starbucks wins by being able to attract top talent to its shops (therefore giving a better service), reducing employee turnover (saving money on recruitment), having a great story to tell (gaining virality) and generally building a better image of themselves in general.

The fact that everybody seems to love sharing photos of their Starbucks coffee kinda helps too.


Coca-Cola was born in an era where marketing was a completely different kettle of fish, but this does not stop them from doing an amazing job of keeping up with the times.

From producing empowering marketing campaigns that are human to running an Instagram account that is mainly just a collection of user generated content, it shows that even if you are the kind of company which can secure world-class sponsorships with stars and football teams, you still need to consider human digital marketing in your media mix.


Richard Muscat Azzopardi

a little more about

Richard Muscat Azzopardi,

Richard is Co-founder and Director of Online Marketing at Switch Digital, which specialises in building long-term relationships and increasing return on investment for clients online. In a previous life, Richard was a marketing manager in a US software company. His writing has been quoted in Forbes and appeared on Wired.com.