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The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast

Apr 23, 2019

Neil Davidson is Managing Director of Hey Human (London), “the behavioural communications agency.” Hey Human started five years ago – the world was changing, brands were changing, and people were changing (and all of them still are), but agencies? Same old, same old.

Neil questioned, “What could be done to change the way agencies work . . . so they could effect change in the way brands behaved?” Hey Human is an attempt at an answer. The company may be structured by classic relationship strategy and creative skillsets, but team members are not siloed in their roles. Anyone can contribute to the client relationship building, to strategy development, to the creative piece . . . the work is done through collaboration.

How is branding different today? Neil notes that the relationships between people and brands are shallower and more fleeting than in the past. Brand loyalty is tenuous. Brand LOVE is rare. Brands that are thriving in today’s marketplace connect with people in more human ways than legacy brands have in the past.

How can brands better connect with their customers? Neil discovered that what a brand could do depended on its category. Some categories, like sporting or alcohol brands engender high, positive emotional engagement. People are likely to feel less-connected/neutral to negative with other categories; e.g. financial services.

A new brand in a category where people are less connected may benefit by projecting more human-centric content in its marketing communications. Hey Human relies on behavioral sciences and neuroscience to identify ways to reinforce connections with people, and develop more connective content.

Neil presented “Advertising Detox: How to Reduce Cognitive Load” at the 2019 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, TX, where he and Hey Human’s neuroscience consultant, Aoife McGuinness, utilized brain monitoring equipment to “demonstrate the cognitive effects of different forms of advertising.” His company applies this knowledge with its clients, with the goal of “creating effective content that stimulates rather than drains [potential customer’s] brains.”

He feels strongly that companies need to recognize their key brand assets. Even though most people know that a logo is not the same thing as a brand, they often shortcut their thinking to that conclusion. The proof of that statement comes in those cases where a marketing communication is shown to be more effective without the company’s logo.

Hey Human won the Drum Agency 2018 Business Transformation Award and was a finalist for the Thought Leadership Award. The Business Transformation award recognizes Hey Human’s application of new ways of thinking and working to unlock growth for the agency and its clients. Their byline: “We grow Human Brands through changing behaviours” sums up their approach to working with clients.

Neil can be reached on Twitter and LinkedIn, through his company’s website at: or by email at: