This weekend I was StumbleUpon-ing through marketing pages, looking for some Monday morning blog inspiration. As I hit the Stumble button, phrases like “trusted data,” “targeted results,” and “how to make your stock photos stand out from the crowd” kept popping up. It made me feel – in a word – icky. Why? Because something was missing. What was that something? People.

Somewhere along the way, it seems people (and real relationships) have been swept away in a sea of LIKES and fan numbers and [insert metric du jour here]. But people-less marketing is like showing up to run a marathon in flip-flops.

Have marketers lost their human touch? Are we investing in trusted data and targeted results instead of people? It’s time to put people back in the equation, I say.

Behold: four ways to do just that.

ONE | Engage imagination and a sense of wonder (because, let’s be honest, we could use more imagination and wonder in our grown-up lives.) Method recently sent out an e-mail sharing the news that their product refills now come in pouch form. True to Method-form, however, they presented the change to fans with a dose of fun and humor - and a story about how the pouch came to be “in the midst of developing a potential line of rodent pool loungers.”

They also gave fans an opportunity to do some brainstorming about alternative “uses” for the pouch – with winning entries to be featured on future pouches.

TWO | Turn ME into WE. In college, I had good professors and bad professors. The best of the best were the kind who could walk into the classroom, sit down and make us feel like a collective “WE” and “US.” They didn’t stand at the front of the room and lecture. They weren't self-righteous or feel a need to show off their brainpower. They were quiet, powerful leaders. They sat with us. They created a space for conversation. If we got a little (or a lottle) off topic, they adjusted the plan – because they understood what was important was that we were learning and growing and thinking together. Not that we were checking items off a curriculum TO DO list.

Creating a space where people feel that we’re all in this together changes attitudes, opens hearts and imprints on minds.

Check out Virgin Airlines for an example of one brand doing this well.

THREE | Make it meaningful. In case you missed the memo (and massive amounts of love), for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. I have always been a shoe-lover, but I have never felt quite as good about my footwear purchase (read: addiction) as I did the day I brought home my first pair of TOMS.

TOMS invites fans and customers to become part of their passion project (providing shoes for those in need) by simply purchasing their shoes. It doesn't require a lot to become part of the cause - or the solution. Just a pair of shoes you were already contemplating purchasing. TOMS elevates their fans and supporters – and positions the company as the medium that simply passes the love along. Everybody becomes part of the love chain. Everybody wins. And suddenly a marketing message becomes a movement message.

FOUR | Surprise ‘em and delight ‘em. When was the last time you had a remarkable pizza delivery experience? When was the last time your pizza delivery guy battled through a zombie apocalypse to ensure your pizza was delivered hot and on time? Right. New Zealand's Hell Pizza offers customers a “choose your own adventure” pizza delivery experience. Zombies + pizza = unforgettable.