Last September, when Dunkin' Donuts announced it was changing its name to Dunkin', the company's marketers created content to highlight that the brand was now on a "first-name basis" with fans. "We even gave away handmade friendship bracelets to commemorate the change," says Drayton Martin, VP of brand stewardship at Dunkin' U.S. "People have a real sense of ownership for our brand. You see this in the way many of our guests refer to us as 'Dunks,' or 'Dunkies,' as if we're a good friend."

While the idea of a brand aspiring to be friends with consumers might have seemed bizarre a decade ago, in the age of social media, many marketers have found value in forging a human identity around their products and services. "There's an expectation for brands to connect the way people connect," says Andrew Keller, global creative director at Facebook's Creative Shop. "We used to live in a world of announcing who we were, but now we're firmly entrenched in an age of connections. People want to know about the founders; they want to see brands taking actions that demonstrate and prove what they stand for."