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The Human Brand: How We Relate to People, Products, and Companies Hardcover – October 7, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118611314
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118611319
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Q&A with Chris Malone and Susan Fiske, authors of The Human Brand

When people make statements like "I hate my cable company" or "I love my smartphone," what's happening there psychologically?

As humans, we have developed a remarkable ability to draw quick conclusions about others based on surprisingly little information. We use those same powers of detection to draw conclusions about the people we buy products and services from, even if we never have direct contact with them. We infer a great deal about the intentions of our cable companies and smartphone makers from the experience we have with their products and services, as well as all the information about them we are exposed to. As a result, whether we realize it or not, we are not actually loyal to companies or brands, but rather we are loyal to what we believe we know about the people behind them.

How did you two first meet and come to work together?

I (Chris) first stumbled upon Susan's work through an article in Harvard Business Review, which led me to discover Susan's extensive academic research on warmth and competence. I contacted Susan with an email that started with, "I've become a fan of your work," and proposed that we test whether her human perception model was predictive of how customers relate to companies and brands. It's been a wonderful and enlightening journey together ever since.

What do you mean by warmth and competence?

Leading researchers and social psychologists have shown that we judge others almost instantly along two dimensions: What are the intentions of other people toward me? And how capable are they of carrying out those intentions? In the academic world, these two categories of social perception are known as warmth and competence, respectively, and they drive most of our emotions and behavior toward other people.

Through our research over the past three years, Susan and I have discovered that customers engage with and become loyal to companies and brands in the same way they do with other people—on the basis of their warmth and competence.

Which companies and brands did you find are successfully building lasting relationships with their customers? Which ones are failing?

There are many companies and brands, large and small, that use technology to build and maintain one-to-one relationships with customers. Some examples from our book include Zappos, Domino's, and Mercedes, as well as Dr. Kelly Faddis, Zane's Cycles, and Honest Tea. What these companies have in common is that they put the best interests of their customers ahead of their own short-term financial interests.

On the other hand, companies that focus heavily on maximizing shareholder value in the short term end up doing themselves more harm than good in the process. Despite their other successes, large companies like Toyota, Sprint, and Goldman Sachs have learned this lesson the hard way and are still recovering from their missteps. Perhaps not surprisingly, banks, oil companies, airlines, and telecom firms dominate the list of most disliked companies. What these have in common is a reputation for profiting at their customers' expense.


Winner, Business: Motivational, 2014 International Book Awards
Silver Medal Winner, Networking, 2014 Axiom Business Book Awards

“Spotlights what it takes for companies and brands to earn and keep customer loyalty in the digital age.”
— (selected as a “Best Business Book to Get Cozy With This Fall”)

“This insightful book explains in simple terms why trust is at the heart of every healthy relationship—not just between people, but between companies and their customers. The Human Brand will cause you to completely rethink your current approach to customer relationships, and that’s a good thing.”
—Tom Long, chief executive officer, MillerCoors

 “The Human Brand is a brilliant synthesis of psychological science and marketing wisdom. Engaging, insightful, and deeply original, this is an essential book for every business reader.”
—Daniel Gilbert, author, Stumbling on Happiness, and Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

 “The Human Brand is a must-read for those who want a truly evolved understanding of how to earn loyalty and create lasting relationships with customers. It's a timely look at how modern corporations hold onto customers—and how we drive them away.”
—Beth Comstock, chief marketing officer, General Electric

“Chris Malone has a unique talent for uncovering customer insights that challenge conventional wisdom and uncover new growth opportunities. In The Human Brand, he and Susan Fiskeoffer a new way to understand brands, deliver more memorable customer experiences, and drive profitable growth.”    
—Ravi Saligram, president and chief executive officer, OfficeMax, Inc.

“Susan Fiske’s renowned work on warmth and competence explains how we unconsciously judge people and companies. The Human Brand is a must-read for anyone with an interest in why we make the choices we do.”
—Jennifer Aaker, coauthor, The Dragonfly Effect, and professor, Stanford University Graduate School of Business

 “The Human Brand offers truly ground-breaking insights on the psychology of customer choice and loyalty, challenging us to rethink what really matters to our customers and what it takes to build strong and authentic relationships with them.”
—Ann Muhkerjee, chief marketing officer, Frito-Lay North America

 “Today’s technology makes it appear as if marketing has become more complex. In fact, it hasn’t – especially for those brands who think and act like ‘the shop on the corner.’ People’s connection to what they buy, and who they buy it from, is what’s important. That’s been the same for generations. The challenge is in making large brands appear ‘small.’ The Human Brand cuts through the complexities of ‘marketing local’ in the digital age to tell the simple truth: connections are key.”
—Patrick Doyle, president and chief executive officer, Domino’s Pizza, Inc.

“How do we earn the lasting loyalty of others? Chris and Susan provide fundamental, yet powerful, insights into building relationships that matter. They challenge us to ‘come out from behind the curtain’ and lead with courage, conviction and heart. Never before has the humanization of brands and leadership been so vital to success.”
—Jay Gould, president and chief executive officer, American Standard Brands

 “By re-focusing us on the primal foundations of survival, The Human Brand takes a major, comprehensive step towards understanding the real drivers of commercial success. If you care about what ignites, engages and sustains deep, strong relationships with your brand and company, read this book.”
—Susan Fournier, coauthor, Consumer-Brand Relationships, and professor, Boston University School of Management

 “In all the noise and all the confusion, these insights on what really matters for corporations to maintain true customer loyalty make The Human Brand invaluable.”
—John Williams, president and chief executive officer, Domtar Corporation

 “The insights detailed in The Human Brand have completely reshaped our thinking and approach to building lasting alumni relationships and financial support.  Our resurgent alumni results in both areas are a testament to the timely and timeless value of warmth, competence and worthy intentions.”
—Daniel J. Curran, president, University of Dayton

“Malone and Fiske offer compelling new evidence on the dangers of excess focus on short-term shareholder value.  Their anecdote-rich book is helpful for any business concerned with how to retain customer loyalty and trust in these complex times.”  
—Noreena Hertz, author, The Silent Takeover and Eyes Wide Open, and professor, Duisenberg School of Finance

 “The important insights in The Human Brand help explain why B Corporations are able to attract the best talent and the most evangelical customers, and why they deliver lasting benefits to our society and to shareholders.”
—Jay Coen Gilbert, cofounder, B Lab

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Ever since I've read this book, I see the world a different way.
This allows us to feel a personal touch and emote in a way that serves brands with business and loyalty.
Diana De Avila
Great theory and research and also helped in the practical application.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Petralia VINE VOICE on December 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There’s so much noise out there, so many gurus, thousands of businesses books, so many “new” ideas, social media, new paradigms. Most are trash. This one is a keeper. Great stuff. I loved it. I'll say that again. I loved this business book. Why? Because it made me re-remember why marketing can be so much fun. Here’s the gist: competence without warmth is about as effective as warmth without competence. What? Let me put it this way, if you want a successful business you better have both warmth and competence. Of the two, warmth is more important. To paraphrase Machiavelli, if you can’t have both, it’s better to be warm than competent. What’s warmth? Call it engagement, likeability, trust. Would you buy a used car from someone you didn’t trust? What about active wear? Lulu-Lemon has built an enormous business by creating a community of loyalists who appreciate the company's warmth and competence. So has Zappos, Starbucks and Domino’s. Warmth and Competence. Like so many things that are “obvious”, it often helps to relearn them. Get back to basics. That’s the thing that so great about this book. By providing the context, great examples, simple language, Chris Malone and Susan Fiske make their conclusions seem obvious. Buy it. Read it. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've been to some focus groups, and often a question that comes up is along the lines of, "If Mercedes-Benz was a person, what kind of person would it be?" Branding is an essential component of a marketing strategy, whether selling rice or cars or even a politician. There are many books out on branding issues, and one of the better works is "The Human Brand." It serves as a great primer or resource on branding issues for anything.

-Well written, good narrative
-Very good examples of a wide range of "brands"

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Greenbaum VINE VOICE on January 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The central theme of this book is that in this day and age, we view companies as we view a person. We have feelings about them and like or hate them based on that. Sometimes it can be a person who creates an impression about the company as a whole. Back in the “old days” the merchant and the rep were one in the same. We dealt with the owner who was the business.

Today in the “Relationship Renaissance” brands must work back towards one-on-one interactions because that’s what we desire. We don’t want to be told to buy because of advertising by a celebrity. We can’t form relationships that way. When a company makes a mistake, own up to it just like you’d expect a friend to apologize. When as a consumer, I have a problem with your product, treat me like you would a friend and help me out. This is all about real world examples rather than mere theory and focuses on major companies such as Hershey, Dominos, Johnson and Johnson, and Toyota.

In particular I was reading this right around the time the stories about the Target credit card breaches were made public, and this book would really have been of value as to how to handle a mistake in the proper way; I hope the authors update the book to include it!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske's "The Human Brand: How We Related to People, Products, and Companies" is a fascinating and insightful book on the importance of brands and how it relates to people, products and companies.

But before anyone raises their hands and say, "well, there are many books about brands, what makes this one so special?".

Possibly the biggest difference and what "The Human Brand" does so well in showcasing is how powerful brands must be diligent, must be quick in communicating effectively with the public.

Social media changes everything.

Watch a Super Bowl, immediately people are going to start posting on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube about what they like or don't like about that commercial. When a company makes some noise about some campaign, if there is dissatisfaction by a customer, people are going to let you know.

For example, Toyota is a powerful brand that people have equated for so long as a quality car. But when there were problems with the Lexus, it took Toyota way too long to respond.

Sometimes if companies languish without communication or reaction to customers, expecting their brand to withstand any competitor, they're wrong. Blockbuster and Hollywood video are examples of two companies who were strong during the '90s and early 2000's, but with the emergence of Netflix and Redbox, these companies responded too late.

What about BP, the third-largest oil company that tried to plug an undersea oil accident. Did their attempts to win brand loyalty through their commercial campaign help?

Quick, compassionate and also effective planning to communicate with the public is important.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lita Perna VINE VOICE on December 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
We relate to companies and brands the same way we relate to people, according to research conducted by Chris Malone, Wharton MBA graduate, who has held senior marketing positions at companies such as Coca Cola, Aramark and Choice hotels, and Susan T. Fiske, a professor of Psychology at Princeton.

Humans, for their survival need to make quick, spontaneous judgments about others' intentions and how capable they are of carrying out those intentions. Are they trust worthy honest and kind? Are they competent, capable and skilled?

Successful companies need to exhibit both qualities.
Too much of one attribute without the other is ineffective or detrimental.

The authors use grids with emotional responses as illustration. `Each combined pattern of warmth and competence perception leads to a predictable set of emotional responses.'
High warmth and low competence makes us feel pity.
High warmth and high competence make us feel pride.
Low warmth and low competence makes us feel disgust.
Low warmth and high competence make us feel envy.

Think of a cold, yet competent surgeon with no bedside manner or a kind-hearted yet bumbling neighbor who bakes cookies.

The authors highlight the brand Lululemon as using the winning formula by of what they call the Principal of Worthy Intentions, `a customer relationship strategy that involves attracting and keeping customers by consistently putting their best interests ahead of those of the company or brand.
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