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Emotion vs logic and how they navigate our creative ideas

The age-old battle over creative advertising starts with a few basic elements—emotion and logic. Usually, we equate these with the two major hemispheres of our brain: the left, logical half and the right, creative half. The left helps us with denotation, or the literal meaning of things. And the right offers connotation, or the connection between things, such as understanding the punchline of a joke.

Understanding the relationship between logic and emotion is critical. And they are more intimately connected than we think. In their famous study “Evolutionary Psychology: A Primer,” psychologist Leda Cosmides and anthropologist John Tooby examined the relationship between animal instincts and human logic. They reasoned that we have more emotional instincts than animals, like our ability to love, have morals, and fear disease. And these emotions are what make us human.   

This brings us to the decision-making process. When making a decision, neurochemicals, like dopamine and serotonin, are the regulators of our emotions and are how one neuron communicates with another. A memory is then filed away for future use through a series of neurons firing in a pattern, called a memory trace. It’s just like the 1’s and 0’s we use to burn a file on a hard drive—except the pattern is powered by a small burst of emotions between the neurons. This is our biology. Memories are created with emotion, and when we make or remember a decision, our brains are flooded with emotion. 

The stronger the emotion, the greater chance of making a memory. And if a strong emotion is present during retrieval, there’s a greater chance we will remember it. That means creating brand memories and lasting loyalty with customers is all about the amount of emotion that’s present when those experiences are formed. 

Here is where marketing comes in. Many debate whether we, as marketers, should place more value on logic or emotions when making decisions. The answer is they are equally valuable. We need both to successfully communicate to customers, to have them believe our message, and to retain their love and loyalty.

If emotions represent a massive amount of past experiences, memories, and rational decisions, then surely emotion is a part of logic. emotion is logic . This means it isn’t creativity versus strategy, or art versus science, but a combination of both. Perhaps a simple marketing choice with only a few variables should rely more on logic. But a more complex purchase might require more emotion, like listening to our guts.

Therefore, the marketing gut is not dead. Some say that data-driven marketing gives us all the answers and we don’t need all that creative crap. Don’t be fooled. Data inspires ideas. Metrics drive creativity. They are not mutually exclusive.

In an analytics obsessed world, far too often, business decision makers ignore the emotions. They don’t give creativity a seat at the logic table. If they think creative ideas are marketing fluff, they don’t understand how humans think. If you want to avoid risk, look at our biology and make sure strong emotions are present in all communications. If you want a sure bet on your marketing dollars, you need to embrace a balance of both. 

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