Human-centred marketing puts people’s needs first, which yields powerful engagement and customer-led results.

This post comes from Overlap, a social innovation design consultancy in Kitchener, Ontario that believes better is possible. Overlap helps organizations use human-centred design to create revolutionary products and services that make a better reality for people, organizations and, ultimately, the world around them.

It’s time to incorporate empathy-driven design practices into your marketing. Continue reading about human-centred design, tips for utilizing human-centred marketing, and resources for getting started.

What is Human-Centred Design?

Human-centred design is a method for solving problems that focuses on understanding people.

The approach always begins with the people involved, resulting in solutions that address the specific needs of those individuals.

You can use human-centred design for daily solutions:

How might we design our office space to meet the needs of our team?

Or more complex challenges:

How might we tackle poverty in Canada?

A human-centred approach produces meaningful results because there’s always a strong link back to human needs.

Why Marketers Are Harnessing Human-Centred Design

As technology grows to intersect with every aspect of our lives, we’re seeing more and more connections with tech and not enough connections with real people.

Long past are the days of traditional advertising. Today, people demand more in exchange for brand loyalty, let alone 30 seconds of their attention. You could say content marketing was the first step toward human-centred marketing—with a focus on creating and sharing materials that are both relevant and valuable to customers.

Content marketing is built on giving people resources they actually need and want. Once a way to stand out, now Content Marketing Institute says 88% of B2B marketers use content marketing as a part of their strategy.

To rise above the content noise, marketers need to build and nurture human connections in ways they haven’t before. Incorporating human-centred design practices is an increasingly popular way of doing this.

How to Utilize Human-Centred Marketing

1. Go Beyond Listening

Be an active listener by reaching out to customers and capturing what they have to say. You can’t just wait for stories to come to you. Ask your audience meaningful questions to get to know them on a deeper level. Instead of focusing on impressions or clicks, try setting behavioural goals as your key performance indicators.

2. Be Empathetic

How can your brand make someone smile, improve someone’s life, or make the world a better place? Be empathetic when considering people’s needs, goals and desires by focusing on human experiences, rather than textbook theories.

3. Use Inclusive Language

Take the time to keep up with current writing styles and language nuances. Use firefighters over firemen and consider exchanging ‘he/she’ for ‘they’. The gender-neutral singular use of ‘they’ is widely accepted and was supported by the American Dialect Society as their Word of the Year in 2015.

A successful human-centred marketing strategy will:

  • Put people (your customers) first
  • Increase your brand’s authenticity
  • Optimize your customer engagement
  • Empower customers to be advocates

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg for focusing on a human-centred approach. There are many specific methods and resources you can use, but it’s also an overall mindset that will put people at the core of every marketing decision.

Human-Centred Design Resources

An Empathy Map is a powerful tool for understanding the various perspectives of your target audience. As human-centred marketers, you can use an empathy map to gain deeper insights into customer personas. You can download your free empathy map here.

Free empathy map


If you want to dig deeper into human-centred design, here are some key books to check out:

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage

The Design of Everyday Things

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques

Here’s a larger list of Design Books to Add to Your 2017 Reading List.

Overlap also offers 2-hour and 1-day beginner courses on Design Thinking and Human-Centred Design in Kitchener, Ontario.



This is a guest post by Jordan Nottrodt, Overlap. Jordan works remotely on projects small and large that increase brand awareness and social engagement. She comes from a background of agency communications, B2B marketing and strategic problem solving. Working remotely, she has been able to pursue her other passion of travelling the world one city at a time. Spark an immediate and detailed conversation with Jordan by mentioning Mad Men or Game of Thrones.

Leave a Reply