Left-Brain vs Right Brain: The Digital Marketing Debate

Left-Brain vs Right Brain: The Digital Marketing Debate

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Tom Perrault (executive for Rally Health) stressed the importance of ‘right-brain thinkers’ in an tech industry (such as digital marketing) that’s traditionally been dominated by coders, engineers, and mathematicians. In fact, the article itself was titled Digital Companies Need More Liberal Arts Majors.

It’s a great article, and I would recommend hunting it down (be wary about the above link; HBR.org will only let you view four articles without a subscription). I won’t spend too long reiterating, but it essentially boils down to abstract thinkers being an important asset due to their creativity, their empathy, their listening skills, and their vision.

However, this article isn’t called “Abstract thinkers are great, go read this other guy’s post.”

While I try to remain flexible and use both modes of thought, I consider myself to be a writer and ‘abstract thinker’ first and foremost. And as a writer, I’m hesitant to add a ‘Yeah, but…” when someone says we need more creative thought in any context. I mean, we do, but…

Creativity is a tool of digital marketingAbstract thought is great—but it is, by definition, useless on its own.

I should start by saying that there’s no such thing as literal ‘left-brain’ and ‘right-brain’ thought. Since the lateral brain theory was proposed in the 60s, ‘right-brain’ and ‘left-brain’ have been used as short-hand for ‘abstract’ and ‘logical’ people.

Abstraction, by definition, is a representation of something physical or concrete. Creative thought can be boiled down to an abstract approach to an existing problem. Great, right?

Well, think about it this way: The abstract is built upon your understanding of something logical. An abstract thinker could come up with some novel, entertaining, and extremely creative ideas–but if their understanding of the problem they’re trying to solve is limited, then so is the value of their proposed solution.

Have you ever met someone with a great solution that could solve an ages-old problem? Just one simple thing that could be done to end racism, bring peace to the middle east, or feed the world? Odds are pretty good that this person is unfamiliar with the nuances of our extraordinarily complicated geopolitical stage.

No matter how creative, a solution that doesn’t understand the problem simply doesn’t work as a solution.

The Blueprints of Digital MarketingA great abstract thought is built on a foundation of logic and understanding.

While great creative thinkers do bring a lot to the table, it’s important that they fully understand the problems they’re working to address—especially in companies heavily involved in the digital marketplace. Innovations in research, tracking, and analytics have brought with them a massive swath of data. Understanding that data is a logical, ‘left-brain’ affair, while building a dynamic digital marketing strategy requires the four ‘right-brain’ values that Perrault extolled in his article: Creativity, Empathy, Listening, and Vision.

In other words, what digital marketing efforts need are employees who think like liberal arts majors, but who can understand like applied sciences majors.

This is one of the reasons why agencies tend to be a bit more effective at digital marketing: While there are well-rounded freelancers out there, many are stronger in one area or the other, leading to either flat ad creative or poor targeting. Digital marketing agencies, on the other hand, often have multiple specialists at their disposal, working on your account.

Miscellaneous branded marketing materialsOn Logic, Creativity, and Digital Marketing.

While this ‘best of both worlds’ approach is helpful in many industries, digital and otherwise, it’s particularly important in digital marketing. It takes logical thinking to find your market, determine the effectiveness of your efforts, and make objective decisions regarding mediums. At the same time, the creative is what determines whether your marketing manages to make an impression on the viewers.

In other words, logic will help you reach your customers, creativity will help you grab them.

This ‘best of both worlds’ approach is why we (and most high-quality creative professionals) will do extensive research before we start producing any marketing materials. No matter how great or small the client, we won’t put a project into motion without first completely understanding your business, your clients, your competition, and your marketplace.

After all, your business is unique. Your marketing should reflect that.

Looking to expand your marketing efforts? Want to know just what we can do for you? Contact us  for a free assessment. Want to learn more about our creative marketing services? Read more on our Branding  and Strategy  pages.

William Hull
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