Humans have changed – what marketers need to be aware of

Humans and their behaviour have changed. In a new presentation uploaded by Hubspot’s CMO Mike Volpe, Inbound Marketing A Love Story, was a slide which immediately caught my eye. It talks about how we  as humans have changed in various ways. I haven’t heard him present this particular slide so please be aware that what follows is my interpretation of it.

Humans have changed - Mike Volpe

Hours worked

Over the last 2 decades our working hours have changed dramatically. Where we use to work from 9 to 5 and then close the door and go home it first got extended and nowadays our working hours are truly whenever. Many people these days chose to work on their own from home and can thus decide their working schedule. Also there are companies, like Hubspot, who offer their employees the most flexible working times of all. In fact I am pretty sure at Hubspot they don’t have any fixed times, they don’t even have set vacation days.

In today’s world we can work whenever we feel like it. To me as a single parent this has proven to be invaluable. I sometimes am up at 6am to write emails or schedule my social media posts. Over lunch I might go out and chat with a friend to return to work later in the day. And unless I have to physically meet with somebody else my hours are indeed completely flexible.


But not only has the timeframe of our work changed, but where we do our work is different too. In the 90s we still had to pretty much all physically show up in a specific place with 4 walls to do our work. Then the trend changed to open cubicles and in today’s world? Well I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent mission critical emails from my trusty iPhone on the go somewhere, perhaps on a child playground where my kid was having a ball. Physical restrictions apply less and less for us to do our work. It doesn’t mean that we always do our work on mini 4 inch screens, but just the ability to do so is phenomenal.


All these changes are made possible by the advancement of technology and the internet specifically. In 1990 nobody knew anything about the internet. It was in 1995 that I got my first email address, I was one of the early adapters and couldn’t email many people as nobody else had an address. At the turn of the century internet usage reached critical mass and emailing and performing web research became 2nd nature. But that was about it.

Today? Well today you can run your entire business “in the cloud” (= instead of on your own computer the software and your data sit on some servers somewhere in the world and you connect to it via the internet). I am too an early cloud adapter and as long as I have an internet connection I can do business wherever I am. No restrictions apply. I can retrieve all my important documents, journals, notes, etc. I can check up on what my team is doing and manage tasks at hand, I organise my calendar and correspondence online and indeed find it hard to even find anything where I still need to have a specific computer and not just any device logged into the net.

Learn about new products

There are two more aspects Mike mentions in his slide, and both of these have a direct influence on us marketers. The first is how we as humans learn about products. At the end of the 20th century we relied on trades hows, sales reps, ads and print publications. Then the media and publications industry started to shrink and are facing near extinction today in terms of a physical printed product. We started to use Google more often to do our product research. “Googling” became a verb everyone understands. And now we’re on the edge of another revolution in how we find out about products. We listen to recommendations online on social media. We share information amongst each other. As a consumer we now have a way of communicating about and to a brand, whether they listen or not.

A new business model has emerged called Freemium. Personally I particularly love all Freemium deals as they are truly empowering everyone. It means that you get a fully functional product absolutely free and only have to start paying when you become one of the top users of the product. No longer is it the “dumb” masses who have to pay for the product. It is now those that truly use the product heavily. Examples of this model are Evernote, Mailchimp and Asana. I use each of these and the threshold of when you need to pay is really high for each of them. Why is this model so powerful? Because you’re using the mass user base to spread word about the product. Anything that’s good and free will be talked about, it’s a given.

As a marketer you have to understand these changes in how people find out about new products and services. Today we ask our network and we search online. We have learned to ignore advertising and are becoming pretty good in blocking it out. And when last did you answer an unrecognised number?

Buying Process

My favourite in Mike’s slide is the last aspect he tackles, the buying process. I just love it, it gives me a chuckle every time I look at it. Part of that is because I have been in sales all my life, even as far as holding a SalesPartners franchise once upon a time. But I most definitely know and understand that sales as we know it is a thing of the past. Today’s marketing and sales has to be consumer centric, or else it will fail. Of course, there are still plenty of organisations who use these old and outdated models, particularly in South Africa where our transition to good reliable and affordable bandwidth is slow, but the writing is on the wall. There’s no escaping this.

People are attracted to and respond to marketing they can identify with (because someone has thought about personas and target markets), that appeals to them and that they love (because someone took the trouble to find out what that is). That’s the kind of marketing that is called for in this new era of internet based behaviour.

What do you think about Mike’s slide? Is he spot on? How far behind are we in South Africa still do you think? How have you changed your marketing strategy to adapt to this new world we live in? Leave a comment below!

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