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Left Brain V Right Brain

Jason Andrews

John Markham

July 20, 2015

The brief:
The focus should be on what each aspect can bring to understanding and influencing customer behavior.

The right brain (emotional/creative) gets into the feelings and drivers of behavior, looking for hot spots and likely areas of attachment and engagement. It could benefit from early involvement by data to understand how stable and repeatable those behaviors really are and what the value might be of triggering a specific new behavior.

The left brain (rational/data-centered) can tell you exactly what a person is like and what they have done in the past, and allow you to build predictive models for the future. But could this benefit from a creative’s input into what emotional triggers are likely to work, and when?

Creative — a left-brain argument
The very best creative ideas are rooted in absolute truth, because numbers don't lie. Creatives used to have to rely on intangibles like gut feel and intuition. But these are now complemented by hard facts. And while a lot has been written about data stifling creativity, most creatives will grudgingly admit that the tighter the parameters, the greater the potential leaps.

Why data? It provides insight. And culture provides context. The sweet spot for creativity is where the two collide. Ideas happen when insight into people's true motivations and behaviors is colored by the cultural context in which they exist.

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life started from an idea about women coming together to fight cancer — and grew into a race against illness, in a society where staying fit is a key cultural driver.

Coke's Small World machines are rooted in irrefutable evidence that people share confidences over a drink. This truth is extrapolated into a political context where divided countries can set differences aside over a can of caramelized sugar water

The underlying data about human truth in both of these examples allowed the creatives involved to make the same kind of intuitive leaps that creatives have always made — except in these instances, they were able to look harder into the data, before they leapt further with their ideas.

Data also plays a big part in the way that ideas evolve once in market. Iterative campaigns, like Melbourne Metro’s world-beating Dumb Ways to Die rely on data as their compass, while they change direction and grow. Results, customer behavior and — in our socially enabled world — direct feedback all play a part in plotting a campaign’s arc.

I’m particularly interested in where data can take creativity next. As the true power of big data starts to emerge, we’ll move from prediction and into prescription. No longer will we be looking at the numbers to smart-guess what will happen. Instead, we’ll be using that intelligence to make it happen — truly influencing behavior with deeply resonant ideas cut from razor-sharp insight.

Data — a right-brain argument
All too often, number crunchers and creative thinkers are siloed within organizations, but to get the very best from data, do we need to re-think our cultural borders?

We know how a consumer has engaged with a brand historically, but also how consumers are interacting in real time, across many channels; where they are, what they’re looking at, speaking about and sharing with friends, etc. Is there more the data can tell us if we look at it through the lens of creative, not constrained by math?

Our seemingly endless source of rich consumer data provides a platform for borderless creative teams to help marketers and brands create new, highly personalized and innovative communications.

Big data sends shivers down the spines of even the most experienced data analysts: how are we going to use the data uniquely and show innovation to our clients? And this is where our creative counterparts can help us think differently. If we can map how people are searching for a new car (by color, whether the kids will fit in the back and the belongings in the trunk), we can help showrooms re-arrange their display models based on trending searches and what customers are asking on social media and user communities.

By design, creatives aren’t constrained by the technical “how-to.” They can think freely, without the left brain kicking in to seek a technical solution that can sometimes limit free thought. So changing how data analysts and planners collaborate, share and think with creative teams will prompt significant cultural and organizational change.

With facial recognition technology looming, along with the ubiquitous wearable tech, how long before we are targeted using data-driven insights of how we appear (to be feeling) with the insight of why we are feeling that way? It’s a new playground of endless ideas — and creatives are arguably best suited to take us there — but with a reality check provided by data itself and perhaps a little bit of left-brain coaching.

From my experience, creatives are desperate to understand how data can improve their work. Is it time for the left-brain and right-brain cohorts to embrace and open a new chapter in data-inspired marketing?

As a technologist with roots embedded in data, I am excited by the opportunity ahead and how creatives will use our 1s and 0s to create innovative campaigns.

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