09/26/2013 09:45 am ET Updated Nov 26, 2013

Amid Noise, Intimacy Is Golden

What a time to be alive!

The digital revolution has risen like a wild river carrying everything along with it. Bright new technologies are bringing people together as never before. In just one click we can share our innermost thoughts with millions of strangers.

We should feel like gods, but somehow we don't.

Perhaps it's because we have switched on something we can't switch off. The current of information is endless now; it knows where we work and it follows us home. We are constantly bombarded with a multichannel assault on our time, attention and senses.

With all our modern gifts, we could be feeling more alive and more connected than ever; instead, very often, all we really feel is numb.

For businesses and brands, the main casualty of this numbed-down world is the possibility of any kind of intimacy with customers.

So how do we re-establish intimacy, and how can brand communications be made humanly relevant again? The key to the answers has to be emotion. Emotion is there in every choice we humans make, whether we're buying mobile devices or signing multi-million dollar contracts.

That's why if you can't feel the idea, it's not good. This dictum is more important than ever before. If we are to have any sustainable hope of igniting the decisions and behavior changes we want from people, we have to find ways to make people feel.

But finding ideas that make people feel has become more difficult than ever before. Consumers are so empowered now, so independently minded and engaged with their own content and connections, it is tough to trigger any emotional response. Being noticed at all is hard enough.

At a fundamental level, the need to create feeling is changing the way companies express themselves. It is not enough to say what you do and how you do it. You have to tell people why you do what you do. What's your company's birth story? Do you have a dream? What is it about the world that you, just you, exist to change?

Analyze the marketing of any currently iconic brand and you will find it is not selling a product; it's selling a why. Everything the brand does and says springs from this one idea; it is the spark for a stream of creativity that can expand forever.

What these companies recognize is this: The more they talk about brands in these terms, the more human they become. The more they use their birth stories, their dreams and their convictions in their brand communications, the more humanly relevant those communications become.

People love stories and they respect sincerely-held convictions. And ultimately, that's what it's all about. Love and respect: the two emotions at the heart of all intimacy.