The Death of Intuition and the Rise of Vanilla Marketing & UX

I've been tapping into my creative side for as long as I can remember. Whether it was making toy guns out of sticks or putting on lip sync concerts in my living room, I’ve always been fueled by an innate creative energy. When I was 9, I discovered that I had an equal amount of passion for left brained activity as well. I spent most of my time writing my own music but it wasn’t enough. I loved tinkering with synthesizers and electronics, and was obsessed with perfecting my recording process. I was a hybrid (turns out a lot of Gen X’rs are) and that duality is what must have drawn me to the internet — a creative and analytical nirvana.


Over the years, marketing and the internet have changed drastically. If the 1990s were the Middle Ages, the 2000s were the Wild West. If we’re all being honest, marketing and internet professionals in those early years were like monkeys slinging poo at the wall to see what stuck. Sure, we’d host the occasional user group or look at heat tracking maps but for the most part we were just making it up as we went. It was a free-for-all right brain bonanza.

The universe has a way of finding balance and what followed was a period of left brain enlightenment. Seth Godin was doing his best to impart good usability, and web/social analytics became the hot new thing. This was a revelation for us hybrids and I could make an argument that the decade that followed was the most innovative in marketing history. Then came 2013.


The new wave of startups arrived pedaling mobile apps and internet tech. Agile and other rapid response methodologies fell into favor and creativity began to take a backseat. Because most of the pieces fit together, digital marketing departments began to assume most of the marketing functions — messaging, user experience, and even brand. KPI’s began to drive the major marketing and tech decisions which placed all of the value on user feedback and statistical data. It was as if the Night King gathered an army of the marketing dead to bring on the left brain apocalypse.


“The problem is that left brain innovation brought with it the death of intuition.”

A lot of this can be blamed on what I call the App Era, when real-time course correction was necessary for startups and tech co’s to compete for customers. I get it. The problem is that left brain innovation brought with it the death of intuition. By removing the risk from our marketing and user experience decisions, we have inundated our realm with vanilla content and lackluster experiences. So…what’s the solution? Who knows but I’d like to start with a couple of things:


  1. Take more risks and ask questions later. You can read all the spreadsheets, campaign stats, and user group feedback you like but nothing great has ever come from playing it safe.

  2. Stop crowdsourcing everything. While an approval by committee isn’t new to marketing, we don’t need the entire organization or feedback from a thousand user group members to weigh in on every decision.

  3. Get back to trusting the experts. Most importantly, you hired a team of experienced designers, copywriters, developers, and engineers for a reason — they’re good at what they do. Let them do it.