The dichotomy of cre­ative think­ing (right brain) ver­sus ana­lyt­i­cal think­ing (left brain), although tech­ni­cally not as divided as they seem, is espe­cially impor­tant for mar­ket­ing ana­lysts. As a data-driven mar­keter, I’ve come to learn that it’s pos­si­ble and impor­tant to be what I like to call a right-brain ana­lyst. In fact, today it is becom­ing increas­ingly impor­tant for ana­lysts to get in touch with their cre­ative side. Inter­net con­sumers use intu­ition and sens­ing to inform their buy­ing habits. Shouldn’t we be using both in search marketing?

Intu­ition and sens­ing are terms that describe how we process infor­ma­tion. In Web design, intu­ition and sens­ing embody usabil­ity and the processes that allow users to frolic effort­lessly, albeit instinc­tu­ally and effi­ciently, through a web­site. Intu­itive con­sumers pay more atten­tion to impres­sions; what are the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the web­site or prod­uct and how does it make them feel? Sens­ing con­sumers search for prac­ti­cal­ity and the bot­tom line; will the prod­uct be use­ful and cost effective?

Although we all use sens­ing and intu­ition in our data-gathering processes, the vast major­ity of peo­ple are sens­ing dom­i­nant. This serves most search ana­lysts well because SEO relies heav­ily on left-brain sens­ing. Unfor­tu­nately, a strictly sens­ing approach to Web design and mar­ket­ing iso­lates about 30 per­cent of the con­sumer pool. In true lyri­cal fash­ion, it turns out that some users are hooked on a feel­ing. But how can we lever­age intu­ition effec­tively in SEO when it is so obvi­ously subjective?

In a 2012 TED talk on intu­itive intel­li­gence, cor­po­rate advi­sor and best-selling author Fran­cis Cholle posed an inter­est­ing the­ory on how intu­ition can be lever­aged: Cre­ative and inno­v­a­tive busi­ness devel­op­ment requires uncon­scious thinking.

I’m sens­ing a lot of head scratch­ing going on out there, so let’s dig in.

The thing about con­scious men­tal activ­ity is that it can only take you where you know you are. The uncon­scious mind, how­ever, serves as a colos­sal repos­i­tory for ideas, account­ing for 80 per­cent of the human intel­li­gence equa­tion. It is where cre­ativ­ity and inno­va­tion come from. What we call intu­itive deci­sion mak­ing is really just the mind’s abil­ity to uncon­sciously detect pat­terns at light­ning speed.

Users must be able to detect these pat­terns also. This is dif­fi­cult to do when a site exhibits poor SEO and when mar­ket­ing inte­gra­tion between in-store, online, and mobile shop­ping chan­nels is far from seam­less. As search mar­keters it is our job to cre­ate the cir­cum­stances that allow users to respond intu­itively. But how can this be a real­is­tic expec­ta­tion when it is so deeply embed­ded in us to func­tion from the ana­lyt­i­cal side? How can we bridge the gap between our school-taught ratio­nal minds and the vast major­ity of our intel­li­gence known as intuition?

I’m a huge fan of the sens­ing quan­ti­ta­tive data-based approach to Web design and tend to pre­fer using data to mea­sure user inter­ac­tions and to sup­port my own deci­sion mak­ing. Hav­ing said this, I must admit I’d be hugely remiss to not also fac­tor in the intu­itive data col­lected through qual­i­ta­tive user-interaction stud­ies. Becom­ing a right-brain ana­lyst is there­fore syn­ony­mous with estab­lish­ing strate­gies that imple­ment both an intu­itive and data-driven approach to search marketing.

As search mar­keters we are ulti­mately results-driven. We strive for effi­ciency; our board­rooms are fes­tooned with log­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions that lay claim to points a, b, and c. Although sta­tis­ti­cally speak­ing we believe cre­ativ­ity to be the No. 1 lead­er­ship com­pe­tency of the future, most busi­nesses often neglect to lever­age cre­ativ­ity, an off­shoot of intu­ition, in the processes that deter­mine ROI. Sadly, the suc­cess met­ric bub­ble typ­i­cally only gauges the effec­tive­ness of con­ver­sion and rev­enue, com­pletely neglect­ing the impact of non-promotional con­tent on organic search authority.

I believe the inter­sec­tion of intu­itive mar­ket­ing and search first hap­pens at a strate­gic level, by ask­ing behav­ioral seg­men­ta­tion ques­tions. Will our cus­tomers res­onate more with intu­itive mes­sag­ing or do they just want the data, the dis­count, the facts? And are strate­gies in place to appeal to both audi­ences? Search mes­sag­ing in the B2B world incor­po­rates more of a sens­ing spin, while B2C gen­er­ally tilts toward an intu­itive spin.

Ford and Toy­ota have great exam­ples of ads uti­liz­ing a sens­ing or intu­itive spin. I can’t say whether or not they are employ­ing this psychologically-based behav­ioral tar­get­ing strat­egy specif­i­cally, or if they intu­itively came up with it!


Exam­ple of sens­ing approach that appeals to the data-based buyer persona.


Exam­ple of intu­itive approach that appeals to feeling-based buyer persona.

The final word:  As left-brain ana­lysts we must find ways to inte­grate a sense of play into our work; to allow cre­ativ­ity to enter our tech­ni­cal, results-orientated processes. Ask­ing peo­ple out­side of our indus­try what they think and ask­ing con­sumers how they feel are key to lever­ag­ing cre­ativ­ity in a data-driven envi­ron­ment. Our brain­storm­ing ses­sions must take us away from efficiency-only rules into the realm of “what ifs” and “how abouts.” Above all, we must learn to be right-brain ana­lysts, view­ing the ana­lyt­i­cal and cre­ative sides of our busi­nesses holis­ti­cally, which is to say the same way that users view them.


Interesting. The right brain analysts know how to analyze the data and the stats and could give the left brain analysts the idea on what appeal most to their customers and what approach should be use to catch their attention.