Connect The Dots: Meaningful connections in the Human Era

On a wet and cold June day, the Connect The Dots series made its successful IRL return at Inlight's new Clifton Hill office.

Following 2021 virtual presentations from fellow partners Optimising and WhyHive, this time it was Megan Simpson from Starburst Insights who stepped up to the plate to share her observations on how brands can (and should) think differently about consumer connection, while also lifting the curtain on some of the digital tools they use to capture their insights.

The pun-filled talk that Megan regaled us with was supported by MECCA's Insights Programs Lead, Justyna Wajler. Over recent years, Justyna has worked closely with the Starburst Insights team to form and curate the MECCA Makers platform. Justyna helped add some extra context to where they've seen serious value come from the program, helping it become the #1 community in APAC based on engagement levels. Justyna also dropped an unexpected pop quiz on the audience which resulted in a handful of MECCA giveaways for those brave enough to put their hand up.

Apart from my own personal learnings from the session (namely, we may have ordered too much food and hanging out with people in person at an event is fun), Megan provided me with some much more helpful takeaways. For those who weren't able to be there on the day, they were:

Facilitate Connection

As humans, we have a fundamental need to bond and connect. The need to connect transcends people and more than ever, this extends to organisations and brands as well. Megan highlighted this point by taking us back to Psychology 101 and sharing some theories of human motivation and what it takes for brands to truly connect

Trust = Meaningful Connections

Trust is a prerequisite for forging a connection, however, institutionalised trust is eroding rapidly, further accelerated by fake news, privacy breaches and recent world events. This volatility leaves us craving authenticity and realness. Brands need to acknowledge this and be as real as possible with their customers.

Be a 'human’ brand

So how do brands 'keep it real'? Simple. They adopt human traits and characteristics. They show true empathy. They are honest and transparent. They demonstrate a future mindset. Megan shared how this can take a few forms including:

  • Authentic Storytelling - we all know storytelling helps to create an emotional bond to a product but increasingly consumers want to see the truth behind the product. As a result, some brands are going a step further and lifting the veil to show how something is made in order to guarantee authenticity. A pioneer of this is clothing retailer Everlane who adopts radical transparency toward a more ethical fashion industry by sharing the true costs of the goods, including their mark up.
  • Customisation (Plus One) - the new frontier is about hyper-personalisation with a human touch. Digital-only UK bank Starling leverages technology to enable customers to connect with them on their terms, using Google Home to enable its customers to carry out balance enquiries and payments through voice commands. The result? Well they’re winning on customer experience, voted Best British Bank in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
  • Sustainable future vision - It’s not about simply relying on past achievements and brand heritage to build trust, it’s demonstrating a commitment to the future by finding solutions for real problems we face - either as individuals or as a society. In the world of luxury vehicles, where legacy traditionally comes from past performance, Tesla is a good example of a brand anticipating future needs. Their goal isn’t to sell cars but to transition the world to sustainable energy.
Leveraging digital

In some ways, it might sound counter-intuitive but digital plays an increasingly important role for ‘human’ brands. Whether it’s facilitating two-way conversations (FYI, meaningful connection can’t be formed in one direction!), increasing transparency, helping to deliver ‘made for me’ experiences or empowering people to be the brand, digital tools and technology is often at the heart of it.


As Connect The Dots has moved to an in-person format, it’ll also become a quarterly series and the next session has been earmarked for late September/October with service design partner STCK.

Further details will be confirmed in the coming months (including which city will play host - Sydney or Melbourne) but to be kept across that, and future Connect The Dots events, please sign-up here if you haven't already.

Enjoyed reading this article?

Maybe others will find it useful too. We'd love it if you let them know via your social networks