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Matteo Rinaldi
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Matteo Rinaldi

Restarting from peeling the onion: a human-centric approach

human centric marketing

Many companies have lost their compass during this pandemic. The key to find the direction to success is to ask ourselves the right question: How much are we peeling the onion? An onion “well-peeled” means understanding consumers in a more holistic way, at 360 degrees.

The power of human-centric marketing

In this period of uncertainty, where some companies are still struggling with dealing with the changes brought from the pandemic, I strongly believe that we should bring back the attention to the “customer” more than ever. 

Freud believed that the individual’s behavior is defined by its fears and desires, which are repressed in the unconscious (that part of ourselves that unveils through the dreams, the lapsus, and the slips of the tongue, and that can be understood through the use of psychoanalysis).

In a way, the job of a great marketer nowadays should be very similar to the one of a psychoanalyst: understand the unconscious aspects that determine the people’s (consumers) behaviour during and after this pandemic. This, in my opinion, will set the basis for a new successful marketing strategy.

The job of a great marketer nowadays should be very similar to the one of a psychoanalyst: understand the unconscious aspects that determine the people’s behavior.

Very often the companies make the mistake of studying the consumers only considering the own product category, but with such a reduced target analysis that won’t help them to understand the consumer deeply enough and reveal the reasons why they chose a certain product. In this way, it’s like stopping “at the first layer of the onion”.

It’s just by continuing to peel it and going deeper, layer after layer, that we found substantial insights and answers that will help us to understand the behaviour, needs and tension points of a person. Peeling the onion means to “undress people from their consumer’s clothes” and understanding them as human beings.

Those who have an experience with cooking, but also those who don’t have any and that I like to call them the “cutters” (my dad, for example, I don’t think I have ever seen him making a fried egg, although he’s an excellent cutter of bread, tomatoes, onions etc.) will know that the more you peel an onion the more you’ll tend to cry.

Deep human insights will help us to create a proper marketing strategy able to connect people and brands on a deep emotional level.

The same happens with marketing: the more you try and go deeper on understanding the human being inside of what we have until nowadays called “consumer” the deeper insights we will have. These deep human insights will help us to create a proper marketing strategy able to connect people and brands on a deep emotional level.

What is left for us then is to ask ourselves: how much are we peeling the onion?

An onion “well-peeled” means understanding consumers in a more holistic way, at 360 degrees. This will not only going to help us identifying the most deep and relevant insights that will be the foundation of our marketing strategy, but it will also enable us to expand our business, attracting new potential clients. 

Human Centric Marketing - Digital Affair

Whether you are CEOs or Marketing Directors of multinational companies, or you are the owner of a small business, if in this period of pandemic you feel that you have lost your compass, and you don’t know where to go, look at your consumers, and they will show you the way.

More than ever now, if you want to create a successful brand, you need to be curious, and try to understand why people do what they do. This means to not stop at the first layer of the onion, but instead, dive into consumer behaviours, beliefs, and psychologies, layer by layer, because the more you understand, the more you are able to create an emotionally engaging connection between brands and people.

3 reasons why brands should focus on human-centric marketing

In my experience of working with multiple brands, from many different categories, and across various countries I have found three key reasons why it is important to look at customers as human beings.  

1. Brands are a source of emotions

As marketers, we tend to think that customers overanalyze their choices, but the reality is that, as human beings, we usually act based on our emotions and then seek a rational explanation of why we acted as we did. Our purchasing decisions are no exception.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.”  Indeed, to be successful, every brand should balance communication between functional and emotional benefits. 

2. Humans influence other humans 

As humans, we all have aspirations. Whether consciously or not, we are constantly influencing others and being influenced by others at the same time.

Consequently, to make the best choice when making purchasing decisions, we often seek advice from those who we think of as experts, those who are passionate about the specific category we are interested in, just as others look to us in areas where we have an expertise or strong experience.

Therefore, we should focus on those people that strongly influence others, and that others aspire to.

3. Lifestyle matters

Understanding peoples’ lifestyles allows companies to determine when and where a specific message will be captured and assimilated by the receiver in the most impactful way. This is done by understanding the varying mindsets throughout various activities related to the levels of receptivity people experience during their day. 

Stop worrying too much about your competitors or about the changes brought by the pandemic, or about what will happen tomorrow. Instead, focus on your consumers, try to understand them as human beings first, and not just as “consumers”, understand what this pandemic meant to them and then create brands that can be relevant to them and that can help them to feel better with themselves and with the others during this difficult time.  

Matteo Rinaldi

Matteo Rinaldi is a Strategic Marketing Consultant that has been involved in consulting projects for Danone, Carlsberg, Revlon, Visa, Juventus, Tecnam and many others. He has worked in numerous markets, such as Europe, South America, and Africa. Before joining the consulting industry, he worked for the marketing team of L'Oréal as well as for the sales team of Coca-Cola Italy. Matteo is also a Marketing Professor at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome, and a published author of numerous articles and of the book Human-Centric Marketing (FrancoAngeli 2020).

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