Instinct Is Not Extinct

Sam Meers
Sam Meers

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instinctWe recently landed a new branding engagement with a client. Nothing particularly impressive about that feat, other than the fact that we have been in discussions about the need for them to go through this process for two and a half years.

Yes, 2.5 years. It’s not the longest time we have pursued an engagement, but it is in the top five.

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by how clients make decisions regarding advertising and branding. All too often advertising budgets get frozen or slashed to bring an improvement to the bottom line. As professionals, we know this is a shortsighted move for short-term gain risking long-term consequences. But it happens on a regular basis. What is it that the C-Suite is missing? Why do they decide NOT to advertise? Why do they allow their brand to suffer along, risk floundering and losing customer loyalty?

This past week, I read a story in Fast Company about the Neuroscience of Trusting Your Gut. It was eye opening. The author, Drake Baer, interviewed Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California. His research reveals how emotion — and in particular, our gut reactions — impact our rational decision-making.

A recent wrap-up of a 12-month brand engagement process for a global NGO made this insight hit home in a very real way for me. At least a dozen key stakeholders were involved in multiple meetings and discussions throughout the year. It was our responsibility to listen, learn and lead the process. Each meeting, every phone call, and all the stakeholders we talked to — every aspect of that process helped the client become comfortable with the ultimate solution — articulating their brand in a new way and creating an entirely new brand name.

That outcome would not have happened if we had, in any way, worked to shortcut the process. The client stakeholders needed time to process what was happening at an emotional level before they could make rational decisions. It just so happened this process took a year.

Next time you have a client cut a budget, or drag their feet on starting an initiative, stop and think about what you have done to help them become emotionally engaged in the idea.

Instinct is not extinct. It is alive and well. But we have to cultivate it. As advertising professionals, it is our responsibility to help clients, from the C-Suite down, understand the need for emotional buy-in to any advertising, branding or marketing initiative. If it takes six months for them to get their heads wrapped around it, then it takes six months - or perhaps, as we have experienced, two and a half years.

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