Left Brain execution – The bane of Marketing Communication today

Left Brain execution – The bane of Marketing Communication today

Shreesh Shankar

Strategy & Creative head, SUKKRISH AADDS


Whether it’s branding or advertising, the boat still rocks the same way. No matter what we do as ad men or branding experts, we are targeting the same demographic – people on that specific boat. As the boat changes, the people change. But, our mission is the same. Rock it both ways to ensure they shift positions and remember your brand. A recently published book seeks to challenge our views on this.

When “the advertising brain turned sour”

Titled “In Lemon: How The Advertising Brain Turned Sour”, the book and its author Orlando Wood feel that technological advancements in the field of marketing and advertising have not made any difference in the way we procure new customers and retain old ones.

The book states that society is moving away from advertising, which has led to a massive drop in campaign awareness. This publication goes on to describe how, advertising has lost its human touch; and offers suggestions on how we might make things right again.

Generally, we would, much like the other cynics, shrug this off and simply label Wood as a marketing guru wannabe. But, he strikes at the core, with this explosive observation early in his book, that “the use of digital channels is contributing to the dominance of left-brain work.”

It is true that a large chunk of marketing has become stale and utilitarian. With the narrowing of focus, campaigns have become more and more seasonal, rather than evergreen. Wood adds that, the problem lies mainly in digital and B2B marketing.

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So, what really happened there?

Creating marketing communication from the left brain

Branding brings long-term growth, primarily through creative and emotional brand building. But today’s campaigns rely on a short-term shelf life. Every brand feels the impulse to renew their strategy every six months; leading to a crisis in creativity that is hurting long-term effectiveness. Wood refers to this as ‘left-brained creativity.’

Creativity has become left-brained today; and is inspired by the digital technologies surrounding us. Today, creativity means more productivity and repetition, as we prefer to work within the confines of a safe zone; i.e. avoid risks of any kind.

Both, advertising and branding have adopted similar styles, leading to less or no effectiveness in our strategies. While the world still reels from branding disasters, such as the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad or even the risky Peloton commercials, we still continue to either tread lightly or trample furiously.

Wood feels that even clients think only short-term; and this has clipped the wings of creativity. “Reason is more important than emotion,” Wood adds.

The Kendall Jenner ad looked to capitalise on the “Black Lives Matter”rallies.The Super Bowl, in 2017, aired a number of commercials that took aim at the new President’s views on immigration. While they may have served the purpose then, they seem irrelevant today.

In today’s world, brands often end up with a temporary sore throat, that needs more than just a Strepsils to cure.

Left brained Content Writing

Content writing has become informational, rather than creative. Every word is written so that, it can be optimised mercilessly, to suit Google’s strict and ever-changing algorithms.

Writers are being tutored on CTR, White Hat SEO and skyscraper techniques, while all they should worry about is doing justice to Wren & Martin. The focus is on dashboards full of metrics, that would make no sense to a writer. Based on these analytics, writers are expected to create densely structured content pieces and use a certain amount of keywords, to satisfy the overlords, who pray for the day their company pops up at the top of the search results page.

Wood feels that marketers look at data, but are completely oblivious to the information behind it; stating that almost all ads are direct response demanding and not actual advertising.

Quick! Data Me Now!

Half a decade ago, eBay found that search ads weren’t giving them any traction. A study into their campaign revealed that the campaigns didn’t target the right persona and ended up becoming stiff. Identically, several other reports have found that, data analytics is often being misused and misrepresented.

It’s being misrepresented as the next saviour in advertising and, it is being misused as a fancy tool. While Wood disagrees with our collective emotion that data analytics can save the industry, he goes on to state another truth by adding that, the focus on short-term events, to determine customer behaviour, can only come with dire consequences.

Short-term data is never helpful.

Understanding Left brain vs Right brain

Science and research have proven that there exists an actual divide between the left and right brain. With each side having its own characteristics, we need both of them to function properly in a society.

The left brain is in favour of rules, consistency, predictability, control, utility and certainty. The right brain is more perceptive and works to understand metaphors, humour and irony, valuing concepts greater than what the left brain can process.

This was deciphered after years of scientific research.

When it comes to branding, connecting with our target demographic requires us to power up our right brains; and to do that, we must, as Wood puts it, “free our right brains.”

Resistance towards our innate instincts to deeply analyse every idea, shuts off the right brain. Instead, to empower creative development, we must look into ideas – the good, the bad and even the dumbest.

Pointing Fingers At Today’s Agencies

Wood explicitly states that agencies that produce left-brained advertising, must also be held accountable for the dearth of right-brained thinking. “A left-brained culture impedes the creatives who make the campaigns,” Wood writes.

Deadlines are favoured over creativity, leading to ad men/women choosing the best of the recent ideas, rather than prolonging their thinking activity. This narrows the focus to what can be achieved quicker and not what will achieve better.

The left-brain style of thinking, practised at today’s agencies, has created a gap between its employees and the public – its audience. There have been more failed campaigns in recent times than ever before.

Pepsi’s ad featuring Kendall Jenner ranks at the top. Here is an agency, composed of a small group of like-minded people, projecting their values and preferences, on to a larger and freely-moving audience. Disaster was bound to happen.

Right Brained Creativity – The Way Forward

This may sound pessimistic, but we have to accept that a major chunk of marketing has become left-brained. Wood says, “the use of digital channels is contributing to the dominance of left-brain work.”

Right-brained creativity is the only way to break the chain. Activating the right brain requires making observations and connections. The right brain is fuelled by our attempts to understand people and events. Think not just out of the box, but out of the ad sphere.

There’s an old saying “there are no bad ideas.” It was coined inside the walls of a Madison Avenue agency. To question everything is another good way to begin. Ask questions. More questions. Don’t worry about sounding stupid.

It’s the way forward to bettering our work and ourselves.


This article is the abridged version of the article originally posted at sukkrishaadds.com.
Click to read the original article
Why we must break away from Left-Brain Execution in order to improve.

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