Meet Neil Davidson: Generation-Tinder Expert & 2016 Annual Judge

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We first met Neil Davidson back in October at the Festival of Marketing. His tenacity to analyze and explore our ever-evolving relationships with brands sparked our interest and intrigue to hear more. His presentation, “How Do You Get Generation Tinder to Swipe Right? How Real Are Our Brand Relationships?” was a hyperclever look into how the current generation relates to the newest and biggest brands. Neil has navigated his experienced career through positions at theFarm, WWAV Rapp Collins, and RKCR/Y&R. But currently Neil is holding up the post as Managing Partner at HeyHuman, an agency who at it’s core believe human behaviour builds human brands. All of this contributes to why we selected him as a Branding Judge for the 2016 Annual. We sat down with him to find out more about his experience, insights and future plans.  

How did you get started in the industry?

I was extremely lucky when I started.  My first roles were working in Government communications strategy and advertising.  Within a far too short space of time they trusted me to manage multi-million-pound advertising budgets on HIV/AIDs and drugs misuse.  It sounds pretty heavy but I was working with great people, famous agencies and learning how to manage and convince senior Civil Servants and Government Ministers.  Think ‘The Thick of It’ but even more so!

After that I really wanted to work in advertising agencies and was naive enough not to realize what a big leap it was so I just kept plugging away until someone gave in and gave me a job.

What did you learn in 2015?

That time invested in simplification is never wasted, whether that’s for brands or in the work agencies do day-to-day.  It’s something that has been brought to life in our neuroscience work on how we process information in a time when we are deluged with messaging and information.   The myth is that we are all coping differently in the digital age when the reality is that we are all struggling, and it’s only get harder and harder.  There’s often a tendency to over-complicate and over-layer, either because at an agency level we think it makes what we do more impressive or at a brand level because technology allows us.  The real challenge is to simplify to connect with people and it’s much harder than most people think.

"The reality is that we are all struggling, and it’s only get harder and harder..."

What is one thing that helped your team work more cohesively?

A shared point of view on where we believe the relationships between people and brands are going and what that means for clients and agencies and how they should respond to this.  Starting with what people want first seems obvious but it doesn’t always happen.  It’s easy to say that the relationship between people and brands are changing but really getting under the skin of this demands time.

In your latest research project ‘Generation Tinder’, you looked at our new mind-set for brand relationships. Is there any brand in particular you would love to work with?

Rather than a particular brand it’s a particular sector.  Financial services fascinate me as I still believe there’s so much potential in what these brands can do to help people.  Brands who stand for something and really want to understand people’s behaviours and help them do the little things that we all know we should do with our money but never quite get round to could really make a difference.


Easyjet are our 'Friends with Benefits' : Generation Tinder

Neil, you’ve been selected as one of our Branding Judges this year for the Annual 2016, do you have any advice for those submitting work? 

Funnily enough my advice would be not to second guess the judges!  I’ve always found that the most successful work I’ve been involved with has started with self-belief and the compelling magnetism that comes from this belief in the work because of this. It never worked when we tried to second guess others.

"The most successful work I’ve been involved with has started with self-belief and the compelling magnetism that comes from this belief..."

What excites you about 2016?

The opportunity to make the most of the learning's that are still coming through from disciplines such as neuroscience into what really makes us tick and how brands and agencies can use this to make good work great, in terms of how it connects with people.  It’s when this goes beyond conventional communications and into areas such as product design and UX that we can make an even bigger impact.

Have you had any ideas on what you might be exploring in your next study?

We’ve focused on learning's on brand relationships, behaviours and brains, what makes people tick.  I’d love to work with a client to pull these three areas together specifically for their brand only so that it is at the heart of their whole approach to marketing.  It’s when you get really specific that you can develop thinking and ideas that are truly transformative.

We’re super excited to see what’s next from Neil and his team.

To stay updated with more of his work…

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