Featuring an Interview with Al and Laura Ries, authors of WAR IN THE BOARDROOM: Why Left-Brain Management and Right-Brain Marketing Don’t See Eye-to-Eye – and What to Do About It.
There’s a war going on in American business. It’s a war that needlessly inflicts serious economic harm on customers, employees, companies and stakeholders.
It’s a war that causes great ideas and products to vanish. To get lost in the clear fog of logical logic. A devastatingly destructive war that helps bad ideas take root and grow (albeit briefly), nurtured and justified by common sense and … logical logic.
LEFT-BRAIN MANAGEMENT vs. RIGHT-BRAIN MARKETING
What does that mean? How does it work? What to do about it? Find out in this interview with bestselling authors Al and Laura Ries.
BUT FIRST …
The markets being the shape they’re in – no jobs, no money, no hope, economic despair, destruction and disheartenment all around, I thought it’d be the perfect time to start a new company.
So I did. It’s called “Kayser’s No-New Media.” I specialize in old media – none of that highfalutin New Media Web 2.0 vaporware. My differentiator? I go back through time, find and revive great ideas from the past that have gone bad, mostly because they were ahead of their time, or were poorly executed.
See, I understand the left-brainer vs. right-brainer war mentality. I’m above all that Byzantine internecine strife. In fact I’m going to profit handsomely from it because I’m a “Know-Brainer.” I use both sides of my brain, that’s why the new business is booming. Well … at least my one ( beta account – no money has actually exchanged hands yet) account is.
My first job is for an auto manufacturer. Yes I know, not the best time to be dealing with the auto industry. But my client is getting mega bucks in new investment (from taxpayers) … what an opportunity! And this auto dealer has total faith in my new approach. We’re getting ready to rock the Auto World. There is only one catch. They asked that I run my ideas and marketing concept by some world-class Marketing & PR strategists. “No problemo,” (Sometimes I speak German to impress new clients) said I. “Piece of cake.”
RETRO-STRATEGIC BUSINESS MODEL
I decided to go for it. To go to the absolute World-class Best Marketing & PR strategists – mainly because I ‘m so sure of the concept that I’m looking for endorsements to help grow my unique, retro-strategic business model. So I contacted Al & Laura Ries, best-selling authors of “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding,” “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR,” as well as “War in the Boardroom: Why Left-Brain Management and Right-Brain Marketing Don’t See Eye-to-Eye – and What to Do About It.” They agreed to talk to me.
I’m going to trust the reader not to leak the top secret details of the project below – or crib the idea. Here’s the concept.
We’re bringing back the Edsel.
Sure it was a colossal flop. Worst car of all-time. But that was only because it was way ahead of its time. It was a DaVinci-like beauty.
And the name – Edselzilla?
Car sales are all about the name. Has to be something that rolls off the tongue. Has to be memorable. Meaningful.
I crafted a crafty neologism from the words “Zilla” and “Illa,” and came up with the name, which also has a scintillating etymological iconic meaning … and could it roll off the tongue any easier?
FULL OF HIGH-TECH PRODUCTS
I made sure the engineers loaded the Edselzilla with incredibly complex and sophisticated products that most people will never use. Products like seats that vibrate and shake to the music – different beats – different shakes, depending on the music. Slick, huh? And, taking advantage of the latest in nanotechnology advancements, the Edselzilla computer sensors monitor the mood of the driver (based upon complex gluteus-maximus seat vibration algorithmic calculations) and displays it for all to see. Can you imagine? A blue-green car means a peaceful driver. A red car … road-rage candidate.
And reliability? We rock. What’s one of the biggest value props for a car? Reliability. The Edselzilla prototype’s been road-tested for a year. It’s better than anything on the market. Tops the Lexus and the Mercedes even.
LOW-END OF THE HIGH-END, HIGH-END OF THE LOW-END
Price Point? A mere $150,000.
We’re going to own the low-end of the high-end, the high-end of the low-end and the almost-highest end of the ultimate high-end. How? We’re going wide. On the drawing boards we have a product line wider than the Grand Canyon. Proof?
THE EDSELZILLA PRODUCT LINE
- Bedselzilla: Sleeper Cab Truck
- Dedselzilla: Hearst – Funerary Line
- Fedselzilla: Government Line
- Hedselzilla: Intellectual Line, Professors, Sub-Prime Mortgage-Backed Derivate Analysts
- Jediselzilla: Star Wars Line
- Ledselzilla: Led Zeppelin Line
- Medselzilla: Ambulance Line
- Nedselzill: This is sorta niche’ey. For all the guys named Ned Line. Probably not a big-seller at first.
- Pedselzilla: The Environmentalist/Green Crowd Line- Equipped with pedals.
- Qedselzilla: For the up and coming Quantum Physicist Line
- Redselzilla: The only car for People with Red Hair Line
- TEDselzilla: The Ted Nugent Fan Line. Comes with a zebra-skinned, M-60 machine-gun attachment on the hood, wood-burning grill on the dash (can cook up to 30 lbs of wild game – cookbook included). Coolest feature? The TEDselzilla’s doors flip up and turn into concert venue-sized speakers. Personally, this is the one I’m buying when it comes out – before Ted Nugent captures the Presidency in 2012.
- Weaselzilla: For Politicians Who Raise Taxes on Everyone but Themselves Line -This one will be huge.
We’ll own the market.
Now … for the coup de grâce . A “slam dunk” as a CIA chief once said. I personally negotiated a distribution deal with one of the largest retail chains in the world. Exposure will be incredible. Edselzillas will soon rule the world. Guess who the distributor is?
The largest retailer in the world! The biggest audience. Take your breath away? I knew it would … that’s about it. Wait until Al and Laura hear about this. They’ll probably want to invest.
ENTER: AL & LAURA
Al Ries and Laura Ries are the dynamic father and daughter duo that have reshaped branding in the 21st century. The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR ruffled more than a few feathers and changed the way we look at advertising forever.
Al and Laura Ries have been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, Business Week, and USA Today.
Laura is a frequent media commentator appearing on Fox News, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, ABC News, CBS, PBS and Bloomberg.
WIN THE BOOK: For keeping the secret I disclosed above – the first 20 people that send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with “TEDZILLA” in the subject line will win an autographed copy of Al & Laura’s new book.
FINALLY – THE INTERVIEW BEGINS
Steve: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I have a few questions about “WAR IN THE BOARDROOM,” and then want to run a real-world business branding concept by you. First … why did you write this book? What prompted it?
Al Ries (Al): 40 years of frustration. Marketing and Management are at war. In our years of consulting work, we have participated in many battles over marketing strategies and tactics. On many occasions, we have lost those battles and have the scars to prove it. The reason for the war is that marketing and management don’t understand each other. The reason they don’t understand each other is that their brains are different.
Laura Ries (Laura): Management people tend to be left brain thinkers. Left-brainers are verbal, logical and analytical. Marketing people tend to be right brain thinkers. Right-brainers are visual, intuitive and holistic. Our goal with this book is to help establish better communications between marketing people and management people. Better communications leads to better branding.
Steve: Examples of left-brainers?
Al: If you’re the CEO of a major corporation, chances are good you are a left-brainer. Management people tend to be logical, analytical thinkers. In order to make decisions, they want to be supported by facts, figures, market data, and consumer research.
Laura: Directors of Marketing. If you’re in marketing, chances are good you are a right-brainer. Marketing people tend to be intuitive, holistic thinkers. They often make decisions by “gut instinct” with little or no supporting evidence.
Steve: What about “Know-Brainers” (like me) that use both sides off the brain equally?
Al: We call that “Ambibrainerity.” It’s similar to ambidexterity. Most people who are thought to be ambidextrous (switch hitters in baseball, for example) are really left-handers who, with a great deal of practice, have taught themselves right-handed skills. Or vice versa.
Laura: Ambibrainerity is extremely rare. While you can learn to exercise the less-favored half of your brain, working both sides equally is almost impossible. Depending on how you were born, you are going to have to live your life either as a left-brainer or a right-brainer. Every occupation seems to attract people who favor one side of their brain or the other. It might take logical, analytical thinking to run a corporation, but it also takes intuitive, holistic thinking to run the marketing program for that same corporation.
Steve: Is there a common theme or thread that runs through these left-brain vs. right-brain wars?
Al: Yes. There’s usually a common theme to the lost battles. Management argues for ideas and concepts that are just plain “common sense,” a reflection of their left-brain thinking.
MARKETING=INTUITIVE. NOT LOGICAL
Laura: We argue for ideas and concepts that might not be logical, but intuitively we believe are ideas that will work, a reflection of our right-brain thinking.
Steve: I’m going to ask a dumb question …
Al: Who decides in these wars? The deck is stacked. Every marketing decision has to be approved by management. Guess who loses? Of course marketing loses. But more importantly, the two sides are engaged in a war that undermines companies, careers, brands, stockholders and consumers alike.
Steve: Okay … How about a real-world example of an idea battle that management won that marketing would never have thought of? Maybe something from the auto industry – since it’s a hot topic right now. (I’m prepping them for my pitch here. Subtle … isn’t it?)
THE REALITY OF PERCEPTIONS
Al: Okay. Let’s talk about the Volkswagen Phaeton. It’s a high-end luxury car, priced at $100,255, and received glowing reviews from Forbes and USA Today. Business 2.0. hailed it as, “Overwhelmingly the best value among high-end luxury cars.” Remember this. Left-brain management types deal in reality. Facts, figures, charts and numbers. Management acknowledges the importance of perception, but believes that perception is just a reflection of reality.
They think if you change the reality, you change the perception.
The reality was that the low-end car sales were being taken over by Japan and Korea. Chinese brands were poised to enter the US market. Logic dictated that Volkswagen needed to move upstream – up market, to the more profitable high-end luxury cars. It’s completely logical. Common sense. And completely wrong.
THE PERCEPTION OF REALITY
Laura: Right-brain marketing types deal in the reality of perception. What matters to marketing people are not the “facts” of a situation but what’s in the mind of the consumer, which may or may not correspond with reality. What’s in the mind of a “Volkswagen” consumer? Do you think buying a $100,000 car is?
Changing reality is easy; changing perceptions is exceedingly difficult.
Steve: And what happened?
Al: What do you think?
Steve: Well, I’ve never really heard of the Phaeton. But … it’s a Volkswagen.
Al: Exactly. It’s a Volkswagen. Not a BMW. Not a Lexus. The company couldn’t give them away. The Volkswagen Phaeton was introduced in November 2003. Since then, only 3,354 units have been sold in the United States.
Laura: Perception won out.
Steve: But what if it was the best product on the market? The absolute slickest-sweetest-superior and most reliable? Like a Mercedes. Loaded with high-tech features, bells and whistles that would awe a NASA astronaut? Wouldn’t that make a difference? Save the day?
Al: That’s your left-brain coming out. Management believes that nothing matters except the product. Building a better product is the objective of most chief executives. Wrong. Now let’s talk about “reliability.” Where do you think Mercedes Benz finished in an “Automotive Brand Reliability” survey by Consumer Reports … out of the Top 35 Brand names?
Steve: 1st or 2nd?
36TH OUT OF TOP 35!
Laura: Meredes ranked 36th in the 2007 Consumer Reports “Predicted Reliability” customer survey. Right-brainers know you don’t win with a better product. You win with a better brand.
GOING DEEP AND WIDE
Steve: What if they would have had a deep and wide product line? Be all things to all people? Wouldn’t that have turned the tide in their favor?
Al: That’s logical. Sounds like common sense.
Steve: Absolutely. (I knew I was on to something big now)
Al: Left-brain management types always favor a full line. Common sense suggests that a full line of products and services allows you to sell more than if you had a narrow line. Completely wrong. That’s why it’s so hard to win these battles. Common sense is a tough opponent.
Laura: Right-brain marketing favors a narrow line. Selling is the second step in a marketing program. The first step is building a brand in the mind. Building a brand with a full line can be difficult because you don’t stand for anything. And if you don’t stand for anything …
Steve: But if you stand for all things? You’ll surely sell something. I mean it’s just common sense.
Al: Management counts on common sense. Management approaches every situation in a sane, sensible way. Their emphasis is always on the product and the execution. Like I said … very hard to win a battle because common sense and logic … are so logical.
Laura: Marketing counts on marketing sense. The more experience a marketing person has, the more he or she realizes that common sense is usually wrong. Often the illogical, uncommon sense “marketing idea” produces the best results.
Steve: So how do you think this played out when planning for the new high-end Volkswagon Phaeton?
Al: A bunch of people sat down with reams of reports, data, facts, looked at the hard market realities they faced and came up with the logical idea of a $100,000 plus V0lkswagen. Then they had to justify it. Make it make sense. A $100,000 plus Volkswagen. Can you imagine? Why … that’d be like bringing back the Edsel and selling it at WALMART as a high-end luxury car.
DAWS MOMENT (indicates a Deep, Awkward Silence)
Laura: A right-brain marketing type would have never thought it was a good idea. In the automobile field what matters is the brand. Not the product. Perception dictates reality.
Steve: What’s a right-brainer supposed to do when dealing with left-brain management?
Al: Speak their language. Facts, figures, market share analysis. Present their intuitive ideas to a logical thinker logically, in their language.
Laura: Right-brainers have to sell their visual ideas to left-brain management types in verbal terms. Talk about product benefits and features instead of “positioning” the brand in the mind.
Steve: Thank you so much for your time. But … I have to admit something. I’ve been disingenuously disingenuous. I’ve asked most of these questions because I’ve started a new company – and we’re rolling out a new car model. I wanted to test the concept with you. Both from the left-brain and right-brain approach.
ANOTHER DAWS MOMENT
So … I went through the whole EDESLZILLA concept.
A BLACK HOLE DAWS MOMENT
Steve: So what do you think of my Edselzilla? It rocks? Too much left-brain? Right brain? Or …
HOW DEEP CAN A DAWS MOMENT GET?
I don’t know if the reader knows it or not but Al & Laura would be considered right-brain creative types. So they did what any right-brain creative type would do. Presented their answer in a visual.
About Al Ries & Laura Ries
Al & Laura been have been profiled in The Wall Street Journal, Advertising Age, Business Week, USA Today, Marketing News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Brandweek and countless other domestic and international magazines and newspapers. Laura is a frequent media commentator appearing on Fox News, CNN, CNBC, Fox Business, ABC News, CBS, PBS and Bloomberg.
Al and Laura are branding gurus known for delivering business insights with wit, wisdom and worldliness. They are sought after speakers around the world including the U.S. India, China, Europe and South America. So far they have worked in 60 countries and counting.
Al is Chairman and Laura is President of Ries & Ries, the marketing strategy firm they founded in 1994. Together they work with clients like Microsoft, Ford, Disney, Merck, Frito-Lay and Unilever.
Keep up with Laura on her Ries’ Pieces Blog