Marketers are often divided into two camps – right-brained or left-brained. The left-brained marketer is believed to be analytically focused while the right-brained marketer brings creativity to the table.
While the left-brain right-brain theory is not backed by research, it has become a popular way to explain why some people have strengths in each of these areas. There has always been a tug of war between the two in terms of what makes a better marketer, but success lies in balancing both skillsets. So, let’s take a deeper look at each approach.
Right Brain Marketing
The right side of the brain is responsible for emotional intelligence, creativity, storytelling, imagination, intuition, and similar artistic functions.
A right brain approach to marketing usually attracts a wider audience because emotional appeals are effective across the board compared to logical appeals. Logical, fact-based appeals are effective for more niche scenarios such as B2B marketing.
A right brain approach is helpful in creating a memorable brand image; even the most logical person would be intrigued by lucrative promises combined with fascinating imagery.
How to Succeed at Right Brain Marketing
- Include stories and testimonials to appeal to your audience’s emotions. Some famous examples of this strategy are in Dove’s campaigns. They always share seemingly real people’s stories in their ads which has proven to be very successful.
- Let them empathise with your brand’s purpose. Marketing tactics for Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez focus on the brand’s purpose more than its products. Their whole brand identity is based on being rare and unique, and Selena Gomez also launched an album based on this message.
- Support a cause related to your industry to build a positive brand image. For example, many celebrities choose a cause close to their heart and promote it as something they stand for. Musician Lizzo’s purpose is to spread body positivity and through that message, she has built Yitty, a brand focusing on inclusive shapewear.
- Sell a dream with your product. Many brands sell a dream or a lifestyle. Think about any travel company – they want their audience to picture lounging around under the sun in idyllic settings. Even if it’s just for a week or two, the idea of a dream holiday appeals to the desire for freedom and escapism. Another example is any brand selling courses about making money online – they’re not drawing attention to the information itself, but the lifestyle one can attain through buying their product
- Creative imagery never fails to entice people. There are hundreds of examples of how imagery is important for advertising. One of my favourite examples is Fiat’s Don’t Text and Drive campaign. It’s minimalistic and delivers the message without fail – “You either see the letter or the dog.”
- Let them participate in the campaign. Money Heist’s promotional campaign took the world by storm. They left branded luggage filled with fake money on conveyor belts at Frankfurt Airport and put up posters of characters from the show all over the premises.
Left Brain Marketing
This side of the brain is responsible for our logical functions such as an inclination toward realism, factual information, detail orientation, analytics, objective thinking, and so on.
As mentioned, a left brain approach appeals to a more niche audience, but it’s effective because it attracts people that are genuinely interested without needing to be sold a dream.
How to Market to the Left Brain
- Entertain them with a problem-solving puzzle. Don’t make it easy for them to crack the answer – keep them engaged. A McDonald’s ad campaign included a puzzle that you could solve in order to “sort your head”. It effectively communicated the message of how their 1 Euro coffee can give you a kick and get your head straight.
- Give them solid statistics they can believe in. Pop Chips’ ad makes it clear that there are only 100 calories in each bag. It’s targeting the health-conscious audience that believes in solid numbers over empty promises.
- Present an opportunity for them to learn. A famous example of this would be the “Did you know?” ads that smartly promote their product while educating their audience. The intention here is to introduce the product based on a particular piece of information, which gives the audience the opportunity to experience the rewarding feeling of having learnt something new. They then associate this feeling with your brand.
- Show them why your purpose matters. Consider the following statement from Smart Car: “Design is nothing if it’s not smart”. The message here is simple – it explains the importance of design and how it can affect a company, poor design being disastrous for your product and brand image. Their campaign combined this statement with images of exaggeratedly poor designs, such as egg-shaped wine glasses. Highlighting how these designs render the products unfit for purpose was certainly a memorable way to show why their philosophy matters.
- Show them results. A good example of this is a campaign by Pete Thomas, winner of the Biggest Loser season two. The campaign is for his coaching classes, and he clearly shows results through success stories – four of them in one ad, to be precise. Using results is also common in B2B marketing, showing how products or service have improved a business’ bottom line in quantitative measures.
- Don’t make it too obvious. Nobody wants to be patronised, so please don’t treat your audience like children by over-explaining everything. A good example of a company who strike the right balance is Ikea.
We need to apply both left and right brain thinking to successfully execute a campaign. You cannot make a powerful ad without being creative and you cannot make effective changes to it without using logic and analysis. It’s a synergistic relationship that needs to be nurtured.
If you are dominant in one area, focus on further honing your strengths as well as developing your weaker areas. In some situations, you may be able to collaborate with those who are strong in the areas you aren’t naturally skilled at.
How to Balance Both Skillsets
The most powerful campaigns appeal to both emotion and logic. Addressing both areas effectively will help you stand out, winning over logical thinkers as well as the more emotionally driven audience members.
There are many ways to apply both left and right brain strategies, even if you’re not strong in both areas. For example, if you’re not skilled at writing but it’s necessary for you to execute a brand campaign, you can outsource that part of the process or use a tool like Copy AI to generate content automatically, which you would then tweak later to make it sound more human and give it the required tone of voice.
Another example is managing ad analytics. If you need to analyse data to identify problems, you can always use platforms like Piwik PRO Analytics Suite, Mixpanel, Woopra, etc. to do the hard work (but avoid GA4). You do not have to be an expert in data and analytics to get the insights you need, especially now that more and more advertising platforms are making it easier for everyone to understand ad performance.
There is no right or wrong way to do get something done. As marketers, our success is measured in results and not how we get them.
What Does the Research Say?
There is not much truth to the hemisphere theory of the brain. Findings by Roger W. Sperry resulted in the establishment of left and right brain personality theories, which were amplified through popular culture.
His research studied a group of people who each had a damaged corpus callosum – the structure connecting the two hemispheres of their brain (it had been surgically severed to treat a type of epilepsy). Many of these patients, for example, found themselves unable to name items processed by the right side of the brain but were able to name those processed by the left side of the brain.
As a result, Sperry said that language was controlled by the left side of the brain, and the theory developed from there. Some functions are controlled more by one hemisphere, but scientists now know that many activities rely on an interaction between both. In fact, a 2013 study using MRI scans of more than 1,000 people’s brains revealed that we use both hemispheres equally and that there is no clear dominant side.
People simply have different skillsets. Rather than blaming our shortcomings on which side of our brain is dominant and seeing this orientation as unchangeable, we can always develop the other set of skills. If you need to improve your left brain marketing abilities, remember to back up your claims with data and show your audience results. If you need to work on your right brain strategies, use creative imagery, appeal to the emotions, and show empathy for your audience. We’re all capable of much more than what we give ourselves credit for and it’s ultimately up to us how we make the best use of our abilities.