people used in advertising

Building a human face to your brand

Brand Strategy
Adam Woods
Sidral Mundet

For over two decades, Adam Woods worked with brands including BBC, ITV, Sky, CNN and Discovery Channel as a creative director and commercial film director. During this time Woods learnt ways in which film could capture the attention of audiences quickly, and then build a relationship with them through storytelling. In 2020 Woods started The Camera Confidence Company to empower business owners tell their own brand stories direct to camera.

Adam recalls one of his earliest influences, the documentary film ‘Être et avoir’ (‘To be and to have’) by director Nicolas Philibert. The documentary follows the lives of a group of school children living in a rural part of France. As they learn maths and science, they also learn how to live with each other. The film’s warmth and honesty inspired Adam’s approach to filmmaking:  “Here was a very human, deep connection between the teacher and his pupils. There was no music, no narrative as such, and yet the power of empathy was very tangible”  


TRAILER / To Be And To Have / DIR: Nicolas Philibert

“The power of, and need for, human connection is deeply embedded in all of us” Adam continues.   Knowing that buying decisions are made predominantly on an emotional level, stories are an essential element of ways in which we feel connected. “Building an emotional connection with customers can create a sense of belonging, which for a brand, creates loyalty and builds communities”.  

The Attention Economy
In 2020, the average person is now estimated to encounter between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day, which puts a huge demand on the amount of time you have to put your brand in front of a customer. “I believe we’re in the new ‘Attention Economy’ where brands that create a genuinely empathic connection with their audiences can foster trust and build longer-lasting connections because they’ve earned the right for us to give them our attention”.

As an example, the recent Dove ‘Courage is Beautiful’ campaign continues a powerful and honest human-centred messaging that the company started with a campaign around ‘Real Beauty’ over a dozen years ago.

Dove ‘Courage is beautiful’ campaign

Understanding your why
Woods discusses how the first essential ingredient to strong brand storytelling is to be clear on your purpose. “Understanding your ‘Why’ is a process of enquiry. Who are we serving, how are we helping them?” says Woods. “If you are connected with your ‘why’, it not only gives you a deep understanding of your customers, it also helps you keep honest! This is at the core of the confidence coaching I give business owners, as it helps them feel connected to the motivation that probably got them to set their business up in the first place.

Be human
“When you’re telling your story, it’s important to keep it simple – creating moments that create connection”. At its simplest level, a human face on its own can stimulate a wide range of emotions – tender moments that can create what Woods calls “catharsis on camera”. This in itself can create a powerful sense of connection and trust. “Buying decisions are made predominantly on an emotional level, so being human is an important attribute of any brand wishing to build emotional connection with customers. It is no longer enough to simply say “we’ve got it, come and get it”. “The brands that can connect emphatically in the moment are the ones who succeed in developing longer-term brand loyalty”.

With so much complexity in the world, what we sometimes crave the most is simple human-led story-telling

Adam Woods

Keep consistent and evolve your story
Customers don’t stay loyal if you say one thing and then do another. If you want to create authentic brand storytelling, make sure you stay true to your values, beliefs and promises. Look at how to creatively evolve your story over time. For example, how can you bring in new characters?

Volvo did just that with their acclaimed ‘Life on Board’ campaign, where they took the simple idea of putting interesting people in their cars, set them on a journey, and ask them to talk about life. They paired the German industrial designer Luigi Colani with British contemporary artist Lucy Orta, Brazilian architect Jaime Lerner and interactive tech inventor Flavia Sparachino.

The results were real stories full of passion, emotion and insight. Global Advertising Director Tim Ellis says, “The starting point of this campaign was the starting point of Volvo: ‘Cars are driven by people.’ In exploring this concept, the more we spoke to people about real life inside their cars, the more we understood just how powerful, important and intimate that experience can be.”  

Volvo – ‘Life on Board campaign’.

Building a human connection
The relationship between a business and its customers has evolved radically in the last 20 years since the internet made global interaction possible. “Now how you are perceived as a person let alone a brand is being constantly evaluated on social media” Woods shares.  With the rise of video sharing with YouTube and other platforms following suit, it’s never been more powerful to be able to reach many more people but it’s also so crucial you are able to stand out as a brand with consistency, value-led stories that connect with your audience.  “In a funny way, with so much complexity in the world, what we sometimes crave the most is simple human-led story-telling, and the work I’m now doing with clients in front of the camera is taking them back to that art – to tell their story with true authenticity”.     

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