Left-Brain Marketing

Explore the Strategy of Left-Brain Marketing

left brain marketing

Technology has expanded opportunities for marketers over the last few decades. With the advent of data management, analytics, hosted software, and customer relationship management (CRM) applications, the creation—and success—of a marketing campaign is no longer determined by sometimes nebulous “customer awareness.”

Furthermore, that degree of awareness no longer needs to be ascertained through direct contact. Information that was once closely guarded by companies is now widely available on the web. In fact, Cisco Systems has projected that 667 exabytes of information will have been transmitted over the Internet in the year 2013—more than 2.5 million times the information stored in the Library of Congress. Because of the plethora of technological advances, nearly everything can now be measured, and measured quickly.

Increasingly, then, the world of marketing has become a home—and a target—for the left-brained among us.

What is left-brain marketing?

Left-brain marketing is as much an internal strategy as an outward form of advertising. By definition, left-brained people are logical, organized, and practical—they “live in the real world.” Likewise, left-brained marketing values analytics over creativity, reflected in both internal procedure and external advertising. (See also Analytical Marketing)

Characteristics of the Left-Brained

  • fact-based
  • rational
  • practical
  • analytical
  • task-oriented
  • orderly
  • looks at parts rather than the whole
  • plan well in advance
  • math- and/or science-minded

The outward push of left-brain marketing is designed to appeal to a more practical audience—as well as to right-brained people looking for a left-brained product. Internally, left-brain marketers examine the data—sometimes to the exclusion of more personal, anecdotal information—to discover what’s working and what’s not. Customer response data, not emotional responses, have the final say.

Despite its analytical nature, left-brain marketing is as customer-driven as right-brain marketing, and arguably more so. Instead of attempting to motivate customers to take a certain action, left-brain marketers focus on what customers already do, and how they do it. They identify the media and resources that will most likely influence customers when they reach decision points, and direct customers toward the decisions they were already heading—all the while showing why their product is the correct destination. (See also Informational Marketing)

Who employs left-brain marketing?

Left-brain marketing can either describe the means used to develop a marketing campaign, the approach taken by the campaign itself, or likely, both. American Honda, for example, has built its reputation on its dependability rather than the “excitement of driving,” and has built its marketing strategy around that premise—to the point of featuring a series of mini-documentaries on its website. In 2009, Honda released its “Dream the Impossible” series, a collection of five-to-eight-minute web vignettes highlighting each of the company’s core philosophies. (Honda did mix in a little bit of right-brain appeal, as the series not only included interviews with Honda employees but also with celebrities including auto-racing driver Danica Patrick, actor Christopher Guest, and science-fiction writer Orson Scott Card.)

For the past several years, Honda has worked with marketing-services firm Targetbase, which uses a highly adaptive campaign management tool called Event Transition Network as well as other data-management tools. Customers are scored on their responses to dealers as well as their responses to mail, email, and Web campaigns; in turn, that information was used to target offers through customers’ other “trigger” companies. As a result, while Detroit automakers were suffering double-digit losses during the Great Recession, America Honda was actually able to increase its sales slightly.

This strategy has also proven successful for Targetbase and its other partners (including Southwest Airlines and GlaxoWellcome), as the company nearly tripled its revenues over the course of five years.

Nearly every company will want combine its right-brain marketing efforts with left-brain marketing principles. After all, most companies want to engage both the head and the heart—and help use each to keep the other in check. It’s important to inspire and convince. That said, technology-based companies are a natural fit for left-brain marketing—especially those offering high-end information-technology products (See also Technical Marketing). Quality, efficiency, and dependability will always be critical factors in the purchasing decision for these types of products.

For what kinds of customers is left-brain marketing effective?

Naturally, left-brain marketing appeals to left-brain consumers. By popular definition, that means men whose brains tend to work on the logical/rational side. However, women shouldn’t be discounted either, as they can switch between the right and left hemispheres of the brain much faster than men.

Still, men generally tend to be more task-oriented, and left-brain marketing appeals to that. Home improvement, car care, and fishing and boating equipment are all prime targets for left-brain marketing. Technology consumers of either gender are also prime targets for at least some degree of left-brain marketing. Smart-phone consumers may still be wowed by cool mobile applications (right brain), but they’re also conscious of the fact that those apps and other features aren’t nearly as enjoyable if they’re still on a third-generation (3G) network and/or can’t get proper reception where they live (left brain). Recent campaigns from Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have all needed to trumpet the practical end of their products and networks—often to refute the statistical claims of their competition. (See also Marketing Mobile Phones)

How is a left-brain marketing campaign developed?

The effectiveness of a left-brain campaign will be contingent on the practicality of the product itself, and how clearly the case for that product is made. The success of the campaign will be measured in the same way. Data analysts, design experts, statisticians, and accountants are all part of the mix from the early stages—and in fact may be official members of the marketing team. (See also Marketing Data Analyst)

Tools of the trade

As opposed to right-brain marketing tools which typically research the market, left-brain marketing researches the customer. Left-brain marketing tools include:

  • Maps of customer purchase path
  • Quantitative media selection tools (to determine which media vehicles are most efficient and effective)
  • Market mix models
  • Customer lifetime value calculators
  • Personas (representations of your target audience based on research and interviews)
  • Marketing and Web analytics
  • Service reporting tools (which report customer experiences from every touch point within a company)

Source: Forrester Research, Inc.

The first goal is to clearly understand customer needs and wants as they relate to the product being offered. Using planning and data-mining tools, customer and market data will be analyzed in order to determine how customers respond to marketing stimuli—and, therefore, which marketing resources will work best.

Left-brain marketers will focus more on behavioral and attitudinal data—website activity, purchases, call center or email interactions, surveys, and offline observations—and identify points of influence along a customer’s path to purchase.

Throughout implementation, the plan is tested and adjusted, taking into consideration how goals will be accomplished in different settings—such as different geographies, how well it work with different media, or frequency of advertising. Based on that information, the approach is refined for each market segment. Because they want to maintain their flexibility, left-brain marketers normally buy advertising in small blocks, rather than make large, long-term commitments.

And then there’s the advertising itself. Right-brain marketers go for the “wow” factor, and emphasize the experience—both in terms of what they’re promising and in terms of the impact of the advertising itself. Their commercials will be funny, surprising, may well feature a celebrity.

Left-brain marketers, in contrast, focus on the product and keep it simple. Their branding and advertising will emphasize the practical features of the product or service: This is what it is, this is what it does (and does better than the competition), and here’s why you need it. The emphasis is on the product, rather than on the actors or any visual or verbal pyrotechnics. When actors are used, they will give testimonials about how well the product has worked for them—and thus, why it will work well for you, too.

Needless to say, the success of any left-brain marketing campaign is measured by the cold, hard facts. Right-brain marketers may cite factors such as brand loyalty and customer perception, but the success of a left-brain marketing campaign is going to be measured by the bottom line. How many clicks did the ad get online, and how much additional traffic did it drive to the company’s website or landing page? How many people used that custom URL featured in the magazine or newspaper ad? More importantly, what additional revenues and/or revenue streams did the campaign create, and what was the return on investment?

What career titles work with left-brain marketing strategies?

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

  • coordinate and interact with all members of the marketing team, from marketers to analysts, designers, and accountants
  • estimate the demand for products and services that their organization can offer (and at what price)
  • identify potential markets, and track trends and changes in commerce in all market segments
  • monitor effectiveness of all campaign management and data-mining tools, and regularly refine advertising and other marketing initiatives to reach each market segment

Education and experience

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Manager
    Median annual pay: $116,010
    Top earners: $187,199+
  • Market Research Analyst (including Media Analyst)
    Median annual pay: $60,570
    Top earners: $111,440+

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Most marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree—often in marketing, advertising, or business management— as well as substantial work experience. Education preparing them for this career includes classes in marketing, market research, computer science, and consumer behavior. Additionally, future marketing managers often pursue and complete internships while attending marketing school.

Market Research Analyst

What do they do?

  • gather behavioral and attitudinal data on customer interests, as well as information on how that data is affected by context (home vs. work, geographic location, media preferences, etc.)
  • use statistical methods and software to gather data, such as click-thru and response rates for both print and online ads
  • evaluate customers’ responses to advertising, and make recommendations about how to fine-tune the advertising message and how it’s being targeted

Education and experience

Market research analysts need at least a bachelor’s degree in market research (or related field, such as statistics or computer science). Because of the heavy emphasis on data in left-brain marketing , a master’s degree may also be required. Research analysts can start gaining experience by completing an internship while in school, and may gain additional experience in jobs which require collecting and analyzing data and writing reports.

Media Analyst

What do they do?

  • design and refine advertising according to the media channel(s) it will be used in (i.e. print, video, Internet), and what demographics will be appealed to by each outlet
  • design and run tests to evaluate the performance of advertising, using a variety of traffic-analytics software
  • ensure that branding and advertising emphasizes the practical features of the product or service being offered
  • continue to optimize left-brain marketing campaigns, based on the statistical data being continually gathered

Education and experience

Media analysts will need at least a bachelor’s degree in communications, advertising, or a related degree; depending on the level of experience required, some companies may prefer candidates with a master’s degree. Other important skills and classes that will help you along this career track include statistics, visual communication, advertising, and computer science. Many media analysts are either freelance or on short-term contracts; while this may not lend to a sense of job security, it can provide a useful diversity of experience.

How can a marketing school help you in this field?

There’s no better place to develop your left brain than in a college marketing program. Marketing majors will take a wide range of college courses including communications, market research, advertising strategies, and strategic planning, as well as a variety of other subjects that will introduce them to different facets of marketing and consumer behavior.

However, if left-brain marketing naturally appeals to you—a safe assumption if you’re reading this article—it would be wise to take a few right-brain electives as well, such as graphic design. Even if you never use these skills personally, you’ll gain a better understanding of the creatives on your staff—which will serve your career well.

Smart students will also seek out internships within the marketing field in conjunction with their studies to gain real-world experience and learn from professionals already in the field. These internships will also produce career contacts that can help students land their first job after graduation.

Request information from schools and talk with advisors to learn more about how a degree in marketing is logically the best step toward a career in the field.

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