Kathy Kline, like many of us, loves dogs. As an owner of two cockapoos, she credits being a pet owner for playing a critical role in nurturing both empathy and responsibility in her kids, two very important human outcomes. And human outcomes, by the way, is something that Kathy is quite curious about in her role as global chief strategy officer for Starcom Worldwide.
Starcom recently partnered with Forrester Consulting for a landmark global study that proves human outcomes have a direct impact on business outcomes. They conducted the study, "Building Better Outcomes for Brands and Businesses: Understanding the Power of Interactions to Drive Human and Business Outcomes" from January to June 2019, surveying 10,097 consumers across 21 countries. Respondents were adults at least 18 years old who reported recently shopping for or owning items in one of seven key vertical categories (personal technology, QSR, travel, automotive, financial services, beverage, and luxury).
Starcom and Forrester Consulting defined human outcomes broadly as interactions between consumer and brand that can range from the functional, such as those involving time and money, to higher-order metrics that include agreeing with statement that interactions with the brand "made me feel confident about the decision I made," "raised my social currency," "made me feel more popular," or "inspired me."
We have moved into a world that embraces data but is evolving from a hyper-focus on raw numbers to a focus on insights, learning, implications, and intuitive understanding that the numbers on a spreadsheet represent emotional, impressionable human beings. "Increasingly, with every interaction, brands need to think about the value that they are creating for people, and not just, of course with their interactions with a product or service, but also with their interactions with marketing and media," said Kline.
Starcom has been successfully improving many clients' business outcomes by creating strategy around human outcomes. They are more than confident that it is the right path. However, they also wanted to be responsible and run a rigorous test that, in addition to proving this was more than just a local phenomenon, shows the approach could be applied and scaled. Additionally, they were hoping to uncover any regional nuances. Having been impressed by Forrester Consulting's consistent view to the future, they chose them as partners in the project.
"We were able to prove in this study that when you create human outcomes for people, it does drive business outcomes," Kline said. "However, we also learned that those business outcomes can differ depending on which human outcomes you drive."
One finding intrigued Kline: The functional human outcome of "saved me money" was the most important human outcome in the most economically developed countries, such as those in the EU and North America. In less developed markets — including Latin America, Asia Pacific, and MENA — the human outcome of "I felt more confident in my purchase" was prevalent. When it comes time to make an important purchase, Kline hypothesizes that people in developing countries — who might not be spending as freely as people in more developed countries — want to feel like they made the right choice in their purchase.
Kline is quick to point out that just because "saved me money" was the top human outcome in two regions, it doesn't mean that consumers are switching based solely on price.
"When we talk about human outcomes, there are a variety of outcomes that you can get from a brand or brand interaction that might make me switch brands or consider a brand I hadn't thought of before," Kline said. "It could be that the brand gave me social currency that I didn't have before, or the brand inspired me. It could even be that I got the idea that they are going to make my life a little simpler and that sounds interesting to me. There are a lot of reasons that people switch brands or move away from brands, and we interpret that to mean that it's not just about price."
Another interesting finding is that different human outcomes led to different business outcomes. The idea of making someone feel popular is tied to share gains, whereas making people feel that they got better at a task or better at something was more associated with driving brand advocacy.
The findings of the study back up what has already been in practice at Starcom for the past few years. Their strategic approach, called HX, is all about creating human outcomes with every interaction. The breadth and depth of this study shows that they are on the right track, and that HX is a process that can and does work globally.
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