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The importance of using both sides of the brain

By John Speers, Head of strategy and performance



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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November 28, 2019 | 5 min read

The IPA recently announced the effectiveness of creativity was down by 39%.

EffWeek 2019: ‘advertising has lost its humanity and its ability to entertain’

Kemosabe on why we need to use the right- and left-hand sides of our brains to gain our desired results.

That’s massive. And in a world where everything can be measured, they can be pretty sure they're getting that number right.

Chief innovation officer at System1 Orlando Wood recently suggested in his book Lemon that one of the main reasons for this drop is because we’re all becoming too left-brained – too data driven and analytical. The left brain is brilliant at breaking things down in an orderly fashion and having a narrow focus on what each component says and means. It’s all very scientific and leads to very rational explanations. Communication follows a fine linear and logical order – exactly what some of us want (and forecast too).

The problem is, human beings are not linear and orderly. We’re messy and all over the shop. Sometimes that’s the joy of living – in a spontaneous, impulsive and highly emotive manner. Of crucial importance is the fact that 85% of the decisions we make as humans are irrational. How on earth can we expect rational data to understand that?

There’s much talk of AI leading to machine learning, and machine learning leading to quantum intelligence – I, for one, am excited to see where that goes. I use AI-driven tools to crunch through a great deal of data and strategic research, whether it’s consumer behaviour, personality, affinities, usage and attitudes, competitive beliefs, media, or competitive brand and influencer usage. It’s all fabulous stuff, and some clients are amazed when we get to know an audience that they’ve followed for years in a matter of minutes.

We’re all currently drowning in data, from first party to third party and I’m sure there’s a fourth and fifth party coming along sometime soon. All this needs professional marketers with common sense and sheer gut instinct to cut through and make sense of it all. And then, crucially, to sprinkle the magic between the numbers... to let loose the most powerful force of creativity, which is informed, not constricted, by the rafts of data and analysts.

And this is where the right brain comes in. We're not using it enough, so it’s not being stimulated enough. The right brain essentially controls emotion, which leads to 85% of our human decisions. So, kick that back in and maybe we’ll see a real return on investment?

Orlando Wood informs me that the right brain is where humour, metaphor, contradiction, nostalgia, cultural references and all the broad constructs that make life vital and full of colour exist. The left brain, left to its own devices, has a wonderful terminator style of deconstructing and devitalizing life. The worrying thing is, the left brain is the dominating force that can overcome the right brain.

I think that’s what’s happening now with the irresistible power provided to us though data at our fingertips. The notion of ‘big data’ was exciting, and even more so now that we’re able to break it down and do something powerful with it. I can now segment a brand’s engaged audience into quantifiable personas with demographics, psychographics and geographics, plus personality types and media consumption at the click of a button. That’s bloody brilliant. Size matters, but as we know, it’s what you do with it that counts. Data should never make decisions alone – we as people do, and that’s where the magic must be kept alive.

In an era where content is king, all we have to do is understand the right message, super, or voice over and put it on the right image or video to cut up in as many different ways as possible to distribute across various channels… right? Well, if it was as easy as that we wouldn’t be seeing the 39% reduction in marketing effectiveness. Nor would anyone be embarrassed at the millions of pieces of communication out there that so publicly that get so little attention, engagement or conversion.

We need to be whole brain now more than ever before. We need our great left brain and our AI tools to help us crank through the sea of data. That’s essential. But even more essential is to use this to feed and then let rip the tide of imagination and raw power of creativity.

It’s easy to make the connection between our effectiveness suffering and witnessing a general lack of communication out there that makes us laugh (a real belly laugh), cry, hurt, jump with joy, or feel alive. Bring that back and I promise we’ll get our 39% back.

John Speers, head of strategy and performance at Kemosabe.


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