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May 7, 2012

The Web’s Epic Marketing Battle: Analytics versus Creativity

There is an epic battle being fought on the Internet between the mighty forces of the left-brain ‘analytarians’ (those who worship at the feet of the almighty Google analytics) and the upstart underdog right-brain creatives. Lines have been drawn in all out trench warfare leaving the under-manned creatives scrambling for evidence to back their claims of superior marketing influence and impact.

Woe is the plight of the poor creative who dares to challenge the influence of the Great & Powerful Google and its vast cadre of graduate math majors armed to the teeth with a dizzying array of numbers and statistics, all presented in pretty, colorful charts and graphs. Which side are you on: the left-brainers with their B52 size statistical bombs filled with numbers that can be interpreted in any way that suits their purpose like your morning astrological advice, or the lowly right-brainers only equipped with research papers from neurobiologists, psychologists, and various other social scientist types who actually study human behavior? This is war, and it’s a dirty business to be sure.

To The Victor Go The Spoils

Business is often described in terms of war strategy and to be sure the spoils do go to the winner, but like war, the winner is not always on the side of right, and by right I mean correct. But first a cautionary note: if you are looking for “The Seven Immutable Bulleted Points Guaranteed To Help You Find Your Marketing G-Spot,” you can forget it, that’s a secret I’m not prepared to divulge; however what I am prepared to do is tell you a story about a monkey, a monkey that will tell you more about the influence and impact of experiential Web video marketing than any reading of the analytic tea-leaves.

Jacob Braude, in an expert blog post on the ‘Fast Company’ website entitled “Mirror Neurons And Their Role In Marketing” writes about researchers who “implanted electrodes in the brain of a monkey in order to map which neurons controlled the monkey’s movements.” And like many important discoveries, serendipity followed, another argument for following the creative forces, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Ice Cream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream

Numbers are merely data, not information, they can only tell you part of the story, so to quote the famous Paul Harvey, “here’s the rest of the story.” One of the researchers decided to get an ice cream and when the monkey spotted the researcher eating his ice cream the electrodes lit-up like the giant Times Square Ball on New Years Eve. Eureka!

What the researchers discovered was something called “simulation,” a process where “mirror neurons… mirror in your brain an experience you see, hear, or read.” In other words, the monkey vicariously experienced eating an ice cream just by watching the researcher enjoying his ice cream – Holy Baskin Robbins – this is important stuff, at least if you want to learn what makes an effective marketing or advertising presentation. The conclusion: “your unconscious uses physical experiences to make sense of abstract ideas – even when you are only looking at the experience.” So here’s the secret marketing g-spot, I swore not to divulge: if your marketing initiatives, including Web videos, display ads, text content, etc. don’t provide a shared brain experience with your audience, you are not going to win the marketing battle no matter what the high priests of algorithmic scriptures divine to be gospel.

The Battle Continues

One of the major battlegrounds in marketing today is “engagement” how do you get your audience to connect with your company? It’s the basis for all the buzz (you say buzz, I say bunkum) surrounding social media. Every month a new tech-based social media solution emerges spawned by a group of math geeks and touted by the media as the next killer app destined to change the world. Few business people take the time to investigate fundamental science research into human nature but instead rely on rip and read journalism taken from the latest company press releases.

There’s a reason why people like to watch sports and porn (not you of course), it’s because the viewer is participating in the activity just by watching. Martin Lindstrom, author and marketing expert writes in a ‘Fast Company’ blog “Are You A Victim of Phantom Vibration Syndrome?” about his study on smoking: “Using fMRI we learned that something called Mirror Neurons are activated the moment a smoker sees another smoker lighting up. Mirror Neurons give credence to the old saying ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do.’ It’s a built-in mechanism connected to the empathy emotion, and it partly explains the popularity of sports and pornography. Both activities take us beyond observation, because in our brains we’re actually participating.”

Excite The Brain

Your marketing should excite the brain; if your Web video gets those mirror neurons popping then it’s done its job. It really doesn’t matter if they watch or read everything, what matters is that you made an impact, that they felt something, and whether they act right away or some time down the road is not the point. What matters is did they get it, did the video make an impression, did it engage their senses, because that is the goal.

Marketing Is Contextual Storytelling

Your marketing has to spin a yarn, create a fable, a legend. Apple Computer tells a fabulous story, much better than its competitors, and that’s why its customers are so loyal and why it’s the biggest market cap company on Wall Street. Facts are only tools designed to help you tell a story, and as the experts often repeat ‘a good story is a fact wrapped in an emotion.’ A good story provides context, it paints a picture that your audience can relate to and participate in. It’s what separates the marketing winners from the losers. It’s an approach that takes courage, patience and consistency; characteristics that are in short supply, leaving the field wide-open for those who dare to be creative.

The vast majority of business people will pick the number crunchers every time; it’s seemingly safe and has the appearance of logic backed by arithmetic, even if those numbers are misleading, and in truth tell a vastly different story than what appears on the surface. Only the forces of creativity can develop a marketing story that produces the kind of shared experience needed to motivate people to act.

Business Has Lost Its Mojo

The financial and personal pressure downloaded onto today’s entrepreneur combined with an exhausting continuous flow of misleading and contrary advice creates a business climate of fear and timidity. If success on the Web is based on anything, it’s the ability to be bold and creative in telling a story that makes your audience feel. It’s time to get your mojo back.

Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit,, and Contact at or telephone (905) 764-1246.