Brand Marketing: Add a human element

Cultivating Human Connection in Brand Content

Guest Post by Ashley Anderson, Content Director at Ceros

As digital marketers, we’re constantly presented with new technologies and channels to deliver our brand’s messages.

But there’s a problem.

With so much of our time, energy, and budgets invested in technology, we often lose sight of what makes for truly impactful brand content: human connection. In our quest to utilize the latest and greatest devices and formats, we strip away a lot of what makes us (and our brands) human.

If you want to create a marketing program — and a company brand — that makes a lasting impact on consumers and builds trust, cultivating a human connection is absolutely essential.

Why Does Human Connection Matter?

Research has shown the importance of human connection in a business setting. 86% of buyers say they would pay more for a better customer experience — a direct output of human connection — but only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations.

Why exactly is human connection important — so important, in fact, that people seek it out from brands? Because it’s deep-rooted in the way we perceive and react to the world around us.

Social Connection Directly Impacts Physical and Mental Health

Various studies have shown that social connection has positive health benefits: It strengthens our immune system, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life. Conversely, low social connection has been associated with declines in physical and psychological health as well as a higher propensity to antisocial behavior.
Social Pain is Perceived as Physical Pain

According to psychologist Matthew Lieberman, “When we experience social pain — a snub, a cruel word — the feeling is as real as physical pain. [. . .] The things that cause us to feel pain are things that are evolutionary recognized as threats to our survival and the existence of social pain is a sign that evolution has treated social connection like a necessity, not a luxury.”

Human Connections Drive Engagement

Brand content that drives massive engagement is deeply rooted in human connection. Sheryl Daija, Chief Strategy Officer of MMA, says, “In our analysis of [the 2015] winning campaigns from the MMA Smarties Global Awards and Cannes Mobile Lions, there was a consistent trend of marketers using mobile to spark real, human connections — brands using the directness of the mobile channel to demonstrate a deep commitment to their consumer relationship.” These are the types of connections our content should be creating, regardless of screen size or content type.

4 Examples of Human Connection in Brand Content

The most successful brands are those who understand how to cultivate meaningful human connection in their content. Here are 4 great examples from the last year or so.

John Lewis, #ManOnTheMoon
UK retailer John Lewis has created some fantastic advertisements. Last year’s holiday commercial, #ManOnTheMoon, features a touching story of lonely little girl searching for connection. Through a telescope, she discovers an old man living on the moon and becomes his friend with the help of a special gift.

The story is simple: Two isolated people connect, and their lives are brightened. But it makes a major emotional impact because we’ve all felt the same way as the main characters—sad, disconnected, and searching for something or someone to fill our emptiness.

Sport England, This Girl Can

Sport England, an organization that provides services and funding to increase community sports activity in the UK, created their campaign This Girl Can targeted to women athletes.

Anyone who’s ever felt self-conscious working out can instantly connect to the women in this video. Not only are they relatable—they sweat, jiggle, and struggle for breath like real people—they’re also inspiring for getting after it even in the face of potential criticism.

Apple, Misunderstood
Apple’s content game has always been strong. One of my favorite recent examples is their holiday commercial “Misunderstood,” which features a teenage boy who seems totally disconnected from his family. In reality, he’s filming their vacation to create a beautiful home movie.

The story is touching on its own, but it’s also an incredibly perceptive meta-commentary on how technology can bring people together instead of driving them apart. The boy uses his phone to share a meaningful story with his family; as marketers, we too can use technology in ways that build connections with our audience.

Leica, 100
To celebrate their 100th anniversary, camera company Leica created a compelling campaign that highlights a number of key milestones in the history of photography.

The unique part about this campaign is that, while it doesn’t tell a personal story, it taps into historical moments that resonate across cultures and eras. Bringing these impactful moments to life on camera again evokes the same emotional response as the original photos do, forming an immediate connection between the brand and viewers.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of what technology or medium you use to connect with your audience, don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re a human engaging with other humans somewhere out there in the world. The stories you tell on behalf of your brand should foster connections, using your medium to achieve the greatest impact.


Ashley Taylor Anderson is Director of Content at Ceros, an interactive content marketing software startup. She’s a writer and marketer who’s spent her career knee-deep in the B2B technology space. In previous professional lives, she worked as a science textbook editor, interactive media producer, and pastry chef. When she’s not in front of a computer typing, you can usually find her nose-deep in a book, strolling a museum, or cursing at her sewing machine.


Have content strategy insights? Get in touch to be our next guest contributor. 818 Agency provides creative B2B content marketing and social advertising campaigns to Fortune 500 companies, events, and growth-oriented startups.

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