Marketing and Brain Orientation

One of the perennial dilemmas when approaching an organization’s marketing strategy is the type of appeal (e.g. factual/evidence-based, emotional, etc.) that should be made to the target audience. After all, the strategy can have a huge impact on the response. For example, in the early 80s Pepsi always seemed to win it’s head-to-head taste tests with Coke in its Pepsi Challenges. However, for as much as the anecdotal evidence suggested that Pepsi was preferred to Coke, it never could eclipse it in sales. According to Beverage America’s 2008 report on soft drinks, Coke has 12% more market share than Pepsi). Of course there are many issues contributing to Pepsi failure to overtake the leadership position in the Cola Wars, one of which is the wrong marketing approach.

According to Hall & Stamp’s (2002), studies suggest that facts are meaningful to left-brainers and right-brainers are best sold using energy, personal relationships and emotion.

Additional research of business executives found that left-brain people respond best to presentation where the salesperson was more serious, very knowledgeable, and highly organized, with clear command of the facts and specific recommendations…Right-brain people responded best to sales approaches where the salesperson was more humorous, animated, relationship-oriented, and focused on their personal needs more than their own company’s needs.

For a marketer, the strategy for appealing to your core audience should follow a similar pattern. First, you need to understand the orientation of your core audience. Perhaps Pepsi missed the mark by taking an evidenced-based approach (i.e. Pepsi is preferred to Coke by participants in a blind taste test). An interesting neurological study published by found that in a blind taste test, most participants preferred Pepsi. However, when the participants were told which soda they were tasting, nearly all of the participants preferred Coke. This evidence suggests that people’s association with Coke on both rational and emotional levels influenced their behavior. Perhaps then the evidence-based approach was not appropriate for people making decisions on an emotional level.

Second, the marketer must take that understanding of the target audience’s orientation and use an appropriate appeal in their marketing strategy. I have yet to find the data, but Pepsi seems to be a much more appealing soft drink when using celebrities (e.g. Cindy Crawford, Michael Jackson, Brittany Spears, etc.) than when Gabe Kaplan is showing us people who prefer Pepsi in a blind taste test.

In some instances a marketing strategy will need to incorporate both a factual/evidence-based appeal as well as an emotional appeal. There will be many areas in which both strategies are applicable. For example, in it’s Mac/PC ads, Apple contrasts a young, hip guy (emotional) who brags about all of the cool things he can do with his mac (factual) with an older, nerdy guy (emotional) who is always either having some sort of trouble with his PC (factual).

In conclusion, marketers who can successfully understand the orientation (left- vs. right-brained) of their target audiences and then draft a strategy (factual/evidence vs. emotional) that appeals more appropriately to that audience will find that they are more successful in engaging their audiences through the marketing function.