Every filmmaker has a story to tell about their journey to creative freedom and for Michael Hanson, Humanize You’s founder, the tale is one of an archetypally familiar hero. His fork in the road came with a life-changing medical diagnosis for his son. Insert the conflict of a management engineered evaporation of his corporate marketing role, and Michael found himself opened up to possibilities and the challenge of what to do. The innate human need to create meaningful work and make a difference found fertile ground and was given full heed. Using film as his medium, Michael set about sparking deeper connections with markets by guiding businesses and brands to a more evolved way of marketing their messages.
But life’s pathways are seldom linear and creative motives rarely uncomplicated. With yet another crossroad rising up before him, Michael was compelled to bring Humanize You to life. Jaded by the trite and familiar ad agency ‘me too’ marketing recipe, that stifles business and manipulates consumers, Humanize You’s mandate is simple, strong, and primed to face down the status quo: use story to connect people and influence change. Oh, and and when you do that, be real, raw, authentic, and willing to [cause a] fight.
Way more than marketing and video, Humanize You is about searching deeply to find the why behind a
business, brand or cause and using that story to connect with, and influence, the audience, whoever they are. Looking for and creating the ways to connect through something more deliberate than pure manipulation and sales, Humanize You is working with people who willingly court controversy or profile, not for the sake of it purely, but to spotlight an issue or cause bigger than themselves. Ironically, but no surprise to Michael, a business evolution and market connections are the natural by-products of the Humanize You approach.
Here’s some vision into Michael’s mind.
Why Humanize You?
Ad agencies have got it wrong. About that, I’m sure. What we’re doing at Humanize You is fighting that
wrong. For so long, businesses have relied upon manipulation (I call it porn) to influence their audience, but not only is that wrong, it just doesn’t work. Actually, it leads to even greater disconnection. What’s needed is greater humanity and honesty in our communication – personal or public – to build connections. Humanize You create those connections through stories; actually, your story is the biggest currency you have. We’re obsessed with helping people – businesses, causes, individuals – craft stories to create awareness, inspire others and make change for the better.
You talk about people leading their own movement for change so what’s yours?
Our movement is creating controversy about ad agencies. Instead of toeing the marketing line, we want people to tell their story to connect more authentically with their audience, irrespective of who that audience is. When you’re brave enough to share a heartfelt message inspired by someone’s purpose, it can’t help but make emotional connections find resonance and find resonance with the people who believe what you believe. Change (and better business) will come far more easily when authentic stories are communicated this way. We just help people get their story out of themselves and out where it should be, making a difference.
What’s The Fight about?
We’re not talking about a fight for the sake of it. Far from it. What we’re talking about is challenging the status quo. If you look back through history, anyone who’s really made a difference has said this has got to change; it’s wrong. That’s where we’re coming from, but we’re doing it in the context of a business and marketing environment and using stories to make that happen. Without awareness brought to what’s not working, nothing changes for the better. That’s why Humanize You works with people and businesses who know they have a part to play in shining a light on something – a cause or an issue – that is bigger than who they are.
Influences? Who and what are they?
Storytelling and human psychology are a big part of what’s behind my drive to push boundaries in filmmaking and cinematography; and even in what can be done in marketing, because we have to do it differently. I’m a willing thief of great stuff from other industries too; music especially. I’m heavily influenced by people who had a cause, wanted to make change for good, and weren’t afraid to be controversial and real. I think we’re seeing more of that today. It’s a backlash from the BS towards what is real, raw, authentic; just how people are. Look at Humans of New York. It makes sense because it tells real stories.
Are you picky about your projects?
More and more I’m getting tougher about the projects I take on. We want to work with people and businesses who are prepared to be brave. Even where a project is commercially driven, I’m pushing boundaries with the client. A lot of times, we have to get them out of their own way so they can see what emerges when they do. It can be tough on some people, but I’ve never had a client turn around and say, I wish you didn’t take me there. Almost every one of them has said, that changed my life. I know it takes people to a new level, that’s why I push them.
How will you know Humanize You is successful?
Humanize You is a business, but there’s more than a commercial purpose to what we’re doing. Our big thing is helping people create and tell stories that are meaningful and make a difference to them and the audience they want to connect with. I know that if we do that well, the commercial success will follow.