Brands are wrong to force marketers to be ‘whole-brained’

Marketing is continually challenged to be more data-driven and analytical while still being creative, but that doesn’t mean individuals need to take on the burden of both parts of the equation, says Mark Evans, marketing director at Direct Line Group.

While he agrees marketing as a discipline must incorporate people with both left- and right-brained skills, to demand both of one person isn’t always realistic and could be damaging.

“Having spent 20 years in marketing you do lots to understand consumers’ psychology and you recognise that people are wired differently. Historically, ‘wired differently’ would mean they think differently, but the advent of neuroscience shows people’s brains are actually wired differently,” he tells Marketing Week.

By that measure, he thinks it is wrong to expect creative, right-brained people to take on tasks that require left-brained thinking, such as mathematics, and vice versa. That distinction is heightened all the more for people at the far ends of the spectrum, such as those with dyslexia or autism.

“The industry needs to appreciate that at the extreme end of the spectrum around creativity and the extreme end of the spectrum around data and analytics  there are people who are currently coming into the industry, moving to the top, being accepted and developed,” he says.

“Let people be the best them. Don’t expect creative dyslexic people to be great with a spreadsheet and don’t expect autistic people who are brilliant at numbers to ever challenge the process that they’re managing.”

The notion of innovation from the edges is what we need to pursue, both from a right and left brain point of view.

Mark Evans, Direct Line

Part of this realisation stems from the work the business is doing around ‘neurodiversity’, which is being led by the marketing department. That journey aims to ensure people who might be “wired differently” are given the support they need.

“The irony is, marketing as a function is being challenged to be ever more data driven, analytical, rigorous and left-brained. Some individuals can make some of that journey, but there is a whole load of people who are absolutely brilliant at what they do and shouldn’t be forced [to do something they’re not comfortable with,” he says.

“I think there is a more intelligent approach to this conundrum, which is to let people be the best them they can be and appreciate that there is diversity of thinking.”

Closing the skills gap

At ISBA’s annual conference in March, BT’s chief brand marketing officer Zaid Al-Qassab said marketing as a profession is struggling to transition from the “traditional world to the digital world”, which has led to a big skills gap.

He said: “If we don’t respond and create whole-brained marketers who understand both sides of things we will end up much the poorer.”

But Evans disagrees. “Everyone’s brains are wired differently. It’s marketing as a whole that…

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