The above headline grabbed me. Turns out it's a thoughtful Ad Age/CMO Strategy commentary by Tom Hinkes on the state of Brand Management. It got me thinking, so I had to take just a marketing minute to post and share it with you.
I highly encourage every marketing professional, from CMO to assistant marketing coordinator, to read this article and think about it.
While the headline may be a bit much and the term "nerds" may offend some, the point is well made – the marketing world is increasingly hiding behind numbers to justify business decisions, rather than using data to inform and stimulate forward thinking and creative solutions. As the author points out: "More data is not better data." And, he goes on to paraphrase David Ogilvy by saying: "The result is today's brand manager who...uses data 'the way a drunk man uses a lamp post, for support rather than illumination.' " (Gotta love that Dave Ogilvy)
Are You Right or Left? - And I Don't Mean Politically
One thing that drew me into this profession was the requirement for right brain/left brain thinking. Personally, I'm all for appropriate use of data, research, and analysis, and enjoy applying these skills in my job. Some of my best friends crunch numbers. I've been known to bask in the glow of a well-designed forecasting model (don't spread that around too much). And, I insist that we track and measure our marketing program performance so we know if what we are doing is on track, off the track or somewhere in between.
However, I agree with the general thrust of the article that the pendulum can swing too far -- great breakthroughs don't all stem from the left side of the brain. In fact, it works quite the opposite.
To be clear: that left side of the brain is absolutely critical. We need that side, and we feed the left hemisphere of our brain data, information, numbers, statistics, research, etc. until it is full and about to burst. Then, we let it digest.
That's when the magic begins. Studies have shown that the subconscious mind takes all this data absorbed by the left and plays with it, turns it over and over, looks at it sideways. Eventually, insight, inspiration and ideas begin to bubble up over on the right side of the brain. The proverbial light bulb goes off, the "aha! moment" occurs. Some call it "vision."
Balancing the Pendulum
So, both sides are important. And, neither side is effective completely on its own. Imagine a world run by exclusive right brain thinkers -- lots of ideas, but little in the way to filter, screen, evaluate, monitor, etc. those ideas. Feels kind of chaotic, lacking in discipline and focus.
At the same time, when the left brain assumes totalitarian leadership, the results are static, minute, uninspiring, lacking in breakthrough. Feels pretty boring to me. It's brand paralysis by analysis.
I believe that great marketers and the best marketing leaders have that right side/left side balance. They know how to analyze, dig, research, evaluate all sorts of data. But, they also know how to synthesize, interpret, extrapolate and use that data to create a new vision for their Brand and/or company. These are the people who lead true innovation, create breakthrough products or methods; these are the folks how are truly game-changers in their fields.
It doesn't feel to me like there are enough of those people in this world, nor does it feel like those right brain/left brain folks are valued as much as they should be. It's not easy, it's hard. It's not safe, it's risky. It's not immediately measurable, it's intuitive. It's not tactical, it's very strategic. But, it's necessary, lest every product we see on a shelf or in a store or online be a line extension of something that already exists. You know how that feels? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...
The Great Debate for the Soul of Marketing
To me, this is really a debate over the soul and future of marketing. (pause for melodramatic effect) But, it's really not a new debate. It's really a heightened debate, one fueled by the explosion of technology and tools, and compounded by an economic recession that has scared most people into greater fear and risk aversion than normal.
Whether you agree or disagree, it's hard not to have an opinion. So, what do you think? Is this a trend? Is it good or bad for the future of marketing and business? Let me know what you think and let's get a conversation going.