5 Brand Humans Lessons from My Dad and Aunt Jemima

A visit home to my Dad’s revealed 5 surprising lessons in how Brands can help vulnerable customers faced with big decisions take a leap of faith by thinking Brand Human.

Dad was recovering from surgery, and that morning I was in charge of his care. I was told he liked scrambled eggs and was given a quick refresher course on cooking. Then everyone left.

When Dad woke up, he was hungry and I started scrambling the eggs when…

“I want pancakes,” said Dad, and I was suddenly 7 years old again.

“I don’t know how to make pancakes, Dad. I never make pancakes. I could poison you,” I lamely concluded.

“I trust you,” he said. “Just get the red pouch in the top cupboard.”

I did. The red pouch had a “tear-here” top. It also had a woman’s familiar face. And right next to that face I read the most comforting words known to man or unskilled pancake maker:


Who was that familiar face on the red package? It was a very contemporary Aunt Jemima. I hadn’t thought about Aunt Jemima since I was a kid, but now I followed her directions with a trusting heart.

I added the water. I made the pancakes. Dad loved them. Of course, pancake mix is not a high cost/high consequence product with a long and emotionally charged buying cycle. But allow me that making pancakes for Dad did require a leap of faith.

And in that leap of faith, I took a fresh look at how vulnerable customers can feel when making important buying decisions and how we can help them move more happily through their buying cycle by thinking Brand Human.

So here are the 5 lessons I re-learned.

  1. Expect Surprises.

    Watch for serendipitous events. Keep your eyes on left field. Great and disruptive ideas could be coming at you, so be ready to make the most of them when they appear.

  2. 2. Be sure your customer really knows what they want.

    They may not know. Big buying decisions can be extremely confusing. Have lots of little discussions along the way. You’ll gain insights and trust points along the way.

  3. Try something new.

    Perhaps it’s using social marketing, or experiential marketing, or a top-notch CRM program to stay connected with your customers. The world is moving fast. This is the time to try, test and try again.

  4. Make Buying Easier.

    Maybe it can’t be as easy as just adding water. But smart companies find ways to make the buying process extra-easy for nervous customers. Solve this fear point and you’ll gain a customer for life.

  5. Keep Good Company.

    When big buying decisions are on the table, help ease the purchase jitters by keeping company with other trusted brands. If you’re selling senior housing, consider stocking the kitchen with legacy brands, like Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker. Or if you’re selling new sports cars, set a Crayola box on the front seat with a note: “You always were the one to color outside the lines. Have fun. Drive safe.”

    Sign it: Your kindergarten teacher.

    And whatever you do, keep thinking Brand Human.