How to speed up your brain to engage your instincts in decision-making on execution

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

While you should go slowly on strategy, you should think quickly to engage your instincts in your decision-making with execution. When you first see an idea, use your fast-twitch brain muscles to pick the winner and reject the bad ideas. Think and feel your way to a decision, then follow through by trusting your gut feeling. Do not overthink and second-guess yourself, or you risk destroying the creativity.

I believe the best brands win because of the passionate and lasting love they establish with their most cherished consumers. It is the smart, creative marketing execution that consumers see and touch, whether it is innovative products, engaging advertising, exceptional service, or the overall consumer experience with the brand. 

How you think and how you make decisions

Use your natural style can inform how we show up as a brand leader, using that natural style to your advantage. Equally, I want you to use this model to learn how to use all four styles. You have to know when to speed up or when to slow down. You have to know when to go with your rational or emotional decision-making side. Use this tool to trigger your thinking on where is your natural style, and where is your gap.  

We each likely have a gap or blindspot with one of these styles. At some point, you will fail in marketing if you get stuck in one style, and if you do not address your gap. 

When I entered marketing, my natural style was the instinctual thinker, who went with quick, emotional gut instincts. I had enough taskmaster abilities to get things done. It took added experience for me to learn to slow down and add the strategic thinking style I needed to be successful at more senior levels. I will admit to a blind spot on the consensus socializer. I was a driver-type leader, with a lower EQ, who was unable to observe or hear the personal objections of others, especially coming from the other functional areas. I thought work that I considered to be great would be viewed the same way by everyone. You should learn to sell your ideas. 

Apply the right style at the right time

To be successful as a brand leader, you must be able to maneuver through all four leadership styles as you move from strategy to execution.

I want to introduce you to my Strategic ThinkBox and Execution PlayBox concept, which I have borrowed from sports. For instance, in golf, using a ThinkBox forces you to consider everything you are facing before taking the shot. Look at any lakes or bunkers in the way, the wind condition, or how well you are playing that day. Then, decide on your shot strategy. As you move to a PlayBox, visualize the ideal shot, think and feel your way through the mechanics of your swing, and trust you are making the right shot. Do not overthink the strategy during the execution.

With your brand, you should use a Strategic ThinkBox to get a 360-degree view of the situation before taking action. Move slowly with questions that challenge your brand’s core strength, gauge the bond you have with your consumers, assess your brand’s competitive position, and understand your brand’s business situation. 

Once you have completed your thinking, move to the Execution PlayBox. Use your instinctual thinker style to see your way to an ideal execution, fast-thinking, gut feel, and emotions to find a smart, creative solution. Once you make a decision, shift to a consensus socializer style, to sell your ideas throughout the organization. Listen to the input of others, and use your influence across the organization to gain alignment. After you have consensus, you now have to move to a taskmaster style to get it done, stay organized to hit critical milestones and push the functional experts to deliver their greatness on your behalf.

Following the analogy from sports, you should avoid revisiting your strategy while you are executing, as it will only cause doubt and confusion among the team that can cause unnecessary spin and will slow you down.

Instinctual thinkers move fast and push for greatness

While you should go slowly on strategy, you should think quickly with execution. When you first see an idea, use your fast-twitch brain muscles to pick the winner and reject the bad ideas. Think and feel your way to a decision, then follow through by trusting your gut feeling. Do not overthink and second-guess yourself, or you risk destroying the creativity.

I believe the best brands win because of the passionate and lasting love they establish with their most cherished consumers. It is the smart, creative marketing execution that consumers see and touch, whether it is innovative products, engaging advertising, exceptional service, or the overall consumer experience with the brand. 

As the brand leader, when you see new ideas coming from your team, asking, “Do you love it?” Should be the first filter for what makes great work. Great brand leaders can never settle for O.K. Each time you reject O.K., the work naturally gets better. When you love your work, you will fight for it, with your agency, your boss, or anyone in the way. Your experts will see your passion shining through.  

The pressure and speed of brand management jobs can suck the creativity out of any marketer. They run from meeting to meeting, one minute it is a forecasting meeting, then talking with a scientist about a new ingredient, or working on a presentation for management. All of a sudden, you jump into a creative meeting and can’t find your instincts. I see many brand leaders show up in a confused state, unable to lead the process and incapable of making a creative decision.

I created a gut instincts checklist to help get you back to where you should be. The checklist forces you to explore your passion for the idea, the strategy you have been working on for months, and connect with consumers. Use your common sense to make sure the idea breaks through the clutter of the market, fits with the brand, communicates the main message, and sticks in the minds and hearts of consumers. Finally, pride goes beyond passion because the best marketers I have seen want to leave a legacy of outstanding work. 

How to speed up your brain to engage your gut instincts with execution decision-making

  1. Focus on your first impressions. Do you love what the marketing execution work has the potential to do? Will you be proud of this work as your legacy? Do not take notes at a creative meeting. When you focus on details too early that you miss out on visualizing how big the idea could be.
  2. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. Your job is not to represent the brand to the consumer, but to represent your consumer to the brand. Learn who they are, and observe how they talk, respond, and act. Try to react as they might. Choose marketing execution work that speaks directly with the consumer. Leverage consumer insights to connect, deepen the bond with consumers, and build memories and rituals. 
  3. Make sure the marketing execution fits with the brand and distinguishes it in the marketplace. Make sure it delivers the brand idea, leverages your creative assets, and fits with the tone of the brand. Know the functional or emotional benefits that motivate consumers and will be ownable for the brand.
  4. Find the magic within the smart, creative marketing execution. Make sure the work will be different enough to capture attention within the clutter of the market to engage consumers with the brand. Focus on communicating the brand idea in a way that is easy for consumers to understand and motivating enough to move consumers to think, feel, and act. 
  5. Stay in the moment. Relax, smile, have fun, stay positive. If you get too tense, stiff, serious, you will negatively impact the team. Do not come up with concerns that are not there or cast every possible doubt that can destroy the creativity of an amazing idea. These doubts will get in the way of your instincts.

Use our gut instincts checklist to handle your decision-making at the creative meeting

In your next creative meeting, you should think fast with your instincts while trying to represent your consumers. View the work through the eyes of your customers. I would not even let my agency do a setup of the work. I said, “Just show me the work as my customer sees it.” I felt any setup or explanation clouded my judgment and impacted my instincts. As you are sitting in that decision-making hot seat at a creative meeting, here are challenging questions to ask yourself. 

  • What does your gut instinct say? You might be coming from a 3-hour meeting and it is not easy to change speeds as you head into a creative meeting. Relax, find your creative energy, let it soak in, and use your quick-twitch instincts. Do you love what the marketing communications work has the potential to do? Will you be proud of it as your legacy?
  • Does the work deliver the strategy? Slow down with some thinking time after the meeting. In a quiet place alone, make sure it delivers your strategy. Does it match up to the objective in the creative brief? Does it achieve the desired customer response? Will it have an expected market impact and brand performance? Don’t over-think and talk yourself out of something that works.
  • Will the work build a bond with customers? Will it speak directly to the customer target, leverage insights to connect, deepen our bond with our customers, or build memories and rituals?
  • Does the marketing communications fit with the brand and distinguish it in the market? Will it deliver the brand idea, leverage your creative assets, and fit with the tone of the brand? Does it use the functional or emotional benefits to own a competitive space that is motivating to customers and ownable for the brand? Is it different enough to capture attention within the clutter? Does the creative naturally set up the main message and move customers to think, feel, or act? 
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  1. You will find new strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  2. To define the brand, I provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a consumer profile and a consumer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We show a step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
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