Half-brained marketing is obviously not a good thing. Yet, over-emphasis on left-brain or right-brain thinking, skills, or endeavors actually does plague many marketing departments.
Right-brain marketing prevails in companies that have historically valued advertising and marketing communications. Right-brain characteristics: qualitative, idea-driven, free-form, creative, intuiting, feeling, non-linear. Marketing has always been expected to use creative talent to tap into emotions and elicit responses from people, influencing their behavior.
Left-brain marketing is dominant in firms that have historically valued analytics and research. Left-brain characteristics: quantitative, data-driven, systematic, engineered, sensing, logic, linear. Marketing has been called upon over the past decade or so to be a better citizen in the corporation by making more tangible business cases and showing clear results from their budget stewardship.
Why the Half-Brain Conundrum?
A sort of prejudice may be in play between right-brainers and left-brainers. If you’re keen on marketing endeavors on one side of the brain, you may find it hard to understand or appreciate your colleagues with passion for the other side.
Left-brain marketers may be more recent imports into the marketing function, and sometimes over-value quantitative data without fully understanding the intangible impact of human-to-human (H2H) marketing efforts, qualitative reasoning, and creative deliverables. If you’re prone to left-brain thinking, you may see right-brainers as unrealistic dreamers.
Right-brain marketers may have a longer reign over the marketing function, and sometimes over-value sizzle and the latest trends without fully understanding the benefits of systematic processes to minimize chaos and waste or the potential of data to guide decision-making. If you favor right-brain thinking, you may see left-brainers as confining oppressors.
When the left- and right-brain of marketing are not harmonized, it can be hard to make the link between what motivates people emotionally as well as intellectually. It may be tough to connect the dots across everything that the marketing organization is expected to do for the company. And without mutual appreciation, more waste and lost opportunities abide, missing out on synergies of full-brain marketing.
The Beauty of Full-Brain Marketing
Both left-brain and right-brain marketing have long been mastered by leading consumer packaged goods firms facing intense competition with thin margins and being one-step (or more) removed from consumers. In these firms, the marketing function seems to have a bigger seat at the executive table, and more impact on the company as well as customers.
Today’s challenges in every industry are universal: to make the best use of limited resources in the quest to maximize revenue streams. We can only do that by abandoning right/left silos and collaborating closely across the rich sources of expertise in our marketing departments.
Here are some ways you can embrace both sides of the marketing brain:
Recognize that both left- and right-brain talents are needed to meet marketing challenges.
Be careful not to inadvertently kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
Resist the urge to make up for lack of left-brain marketing overnight. Over-engineering is not the answer.
Don’t lose sight of H2H needs while pursuing analytics, automation, digital marketing, etc.
Help both sides express what they value that’s different from and common to one another.
Give both sides opportunities to learn about the other through shadowing and/or cross-functional teams and assignments.
Balance the limelight, assignments, and the marketing scorecard in appreciating the contributions of both left- and right-brain skills.
it’s time to leverage all the resources at hand – right brains and left brains – into a collaborative, powerful, marketing function. Let’s use our whole-brain marketing wiles to extend that collaboration across silos company-wide, for full brain-power in all functions that create value for the customer.
Lynn Hunsaker is President of Marketing Operations Partners, a consulting firm that guides marketing organizations to become a value center by mastering emerging market opportunities through marketing accountability, alignment, and agility.