Is instinct a dirty word in marketing?

When I first became a Marketer, I would say it was during a transitional period in marketing. I mean marketing is always evolving so maybe that’s a moot point, but I remember quite big shifts in approach during the early 2010s.

Financial Officers strode around buildings with unrestrained grins, gleeful at the new age of accountability in marketing, or most pertinently, accountability in marketing spend. At the time it felt like every week there was a new way to measure the effectiveness (or otherwise) of your campaign. This posed a headache to those not very good at their job, but in most cases this revolution in metrics more greatly empowered marketers in their quest to develop the perfect strategy.

Prior to digital marketing and these countless sources of measurement, marketers had to go on much more abstract methods of understanding what success looked like, or their bosses understanding what it looked like. In many ways creativity was allowed to run freer than it is nowadays. The hunch often was that uniqueness and shock are much more likely to cut through than pretty but insipid… a fair assumption, and one that in most cases stands today…but back then it was untested. Marketers were sometimes more satisfied with the cleverness of the message than the resonance of it, and in marketing that’s not a good place to be.

BUT, have marketers now lost some of their spontaneity and gut instinct, and with it – creativity? I think in some cases they have.

Now every campaign, no matter how small, can be tested to understand it’s effectiveness. This is largely good news for everyone, but it also makes it less likely someone will come up with something just because they instinctively, through experience or imagination, feel it will connect with an audience.

Some people might say there’s no reason you can’t still exhibit the same boldness and creativity but I’d argue that testing has at the very least put pressure on marketers to seek to obtain consensus. And that pale and broad area is probably not where you’d now find truly great creativity. The famous Guinness ‘Surfer’ ad didn’t do well in research testing, but fortunately brand leaders went with their hunch and now arguably it’s seen as the greatest TV commercial of all time…and it worked with audiences.

So, I think my message here is to try to not let testing and analytics impact your thought processes and brainstorming. Try where possible to think spontaneously and boldly. If you come up with the odd stinker rather than a ‘surfer’ then so be it. Providing you have good people around then they will act as a filter before you even get to testing.

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