I remember a time when some of the best marketing leaders in the business taught me that strong, successful marketing was part good idea, part strong research and large part instinct. I remember my mentors wearing it like a badge of honor. It's what it took to be good and it came from years of watching, learning and growing up in the business.
While I own my own agency today, I spent most of the early part of my career on the client side, and it was there that I was first taught the touchy-feely art of marketing intuition: the practice of listening to one's own belief system based on knowledge and years of experience. Simply stated, it's whether your gut believes a concept will work or not.
Today, sadly, brand managers and corporations have thrown marketing intuition out the window in the face of increasing financial pressures and the desire for short-term results.
While I can't blame them -- I know intimately the pressure they are under -- the current approach to building campaigns has lost the ingredient of pure gut instinct that are often the underpinnings of those that are most ground breaking and successful. Sure, there are a few exceptions, brands like Apple and Method spring to mind, but, in general, where did all that fabulous marketing intuition go?
There are signs some of it is coming back, with recent announcements by Target and Starbucks that instead of continuing to get pulled into price wars against Walmart and McDonald's (respectively) they are going back to the values and messages that made their brands great.
There are plenty out there who speculate they'll fail, but when you read what these leaders have to say about the thinking behind the shift, it's clear that after all of the research, number crunching and rigorous internal debate, it's their gut that's giving them the strength of their convictions.
As someone who prides herself and her business on the ability to craft strategic, creative and clever programs, our best work always taps into our intuition. . How long will it take our industry to realize that research or metric analysis alone won't be the answer, that marketers can and do "think" an idea, and ultimately a brand, to death? As Bob Haas, Chairman Emeritus of Levi Strauss & Co. once directed me, "Create programs that have never been done before and it's okay if one fails ... then I'll know you pushed your limit, and trusted yourself to take some risks."
Corporations need to trust their marketers and empower them to make choices for their brands that put instinct back in the mix. So people, it's time to bring out the old marketing intuition and dust it off. Get clear with yourselves on how much you believe, truly believe, that the approach on the table will work, and if you don't trust it will (even if the numbers say it could) get real with yourselves and push your teams and agencies harder for the innovation you need to give it your intuitive stamp of approval.