Effective creative requires a ride on the Limbic Express


Producing effective creative (or what I call ‘commercial creative’) is much like being a travel journalist.

You see, you can’t sell a destination without going there.

You have to see the sights, drink the local tipple, and sample the cuisine before your waxing lyrical influences others to pack their suitcases and take flight.

And producing commercial creative that gets marketing results, is the same.

You have to go there, to sell there.

But where is ‘there’?

Well, you have a choice of destinations to visit. And one is more important than the others.

Many will visit the proverbial factory where the product or offering is developed.

During a 1970’s tour of the Audi factory, advertising legend, John Hegarty, spotted on old faded poster featuring the abandoned phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. Spotting its potential, Hegarty resurrected the phrase (meaning ‘progress through technology’) and still in use today, it became the very successful motto of a company (and nation) trying to put the past behind them.

And speaking of cars, Ford’s Kumar Galhotra said

“car making is one hundred thousand rational decisions in search of one emotional decision”.

While Hegarty’s factory visit did uncover a rare nugget of gold, Galhotra’s point should sway you towards the destination you prioritise.

Because as Rory Sutherland says

“value isn’t made in a factory. Value is created in your prospect’s mind”

And that’s precisely where you need to visit.

Neuroscience shows the neocortex is where the brain processes cognition and logic. And this is where feature-based marketing targets.

But we’re not logical beings.

As Jill Bolte Taylor says in her Ted Talk

“Most of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, but we are actually feeling creatures that think.”

The area of the brain that makes decisions… is the limbic system. The emotional part of the brain.

Therefore, if we want to influence decisions and change behaviours – which is ultimately the role of marketing – we have to leverage feelings and emotions.

Hence why we should ditch the “here’s where we invent the features” factory tour, in favour of jumping onboard the Limbic Express for a visit to Emotionville.

Despite his hard exterior, deep down my stepdad has emotions. I say ‘hard exterior’ because he’s been Teflon-coated by over 40 years of lugging a 44-tonne artic around Europe’s tarmac. In the run-up to his retirement, he parked up his HGV license for a simpler life driving vans.

The reason for telling you this is because a client of mine has a nationwide fleet of vans making client deliveries in two hours (I mean c’mon, even Amazon Prime can’t do that).

They needed an internal campaign that would influence and change the processes their van drivers follow. Like my stepdad, these drivers have been doing things their way for decades.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But that’s exactly what this brief required.

In fact, the brief explicitly requested “Communicate why they should follow the new processes”.

But that would’ve been working forward.

The right way… was working backwards.

For the creative campaign to work, I had to jump on the Limbic Express and get into my stepdad’s head.

I had to think like he did in order to circumnavigate his initial response – which would’ve been along the skeptical lines of (and muster your best Ray Winston impression for this)…

“oh ‘ere we go, those idiots in Operations are yet again meddlin’ with ‘ow we do stuff”.

That’s how I had to think.

Like him.

Not like a marketer.

And especially not like HR. Who I might add didn’t like the crass banter-esque headlines proposed. But HR’s subjective opinion didn’t matter. They weren’t the audience. And that’s where objectivity trumps subjectivity.

So, did it work? Did the campaign get results? Abso-bloomin-lutely.

The strategic thinking to work backwards, utilise emotions to target the limbic system and change behaviours, meant the comms were on the target audience’s terms, and hence why they were receptive. They saw the benefits to them, and implemented the new processes faster than you can say (cue Ray Winston again) “oh ‘ere we go again!”.

As it was an internal campaign, I can’t share the creative. Sadly, those aforementioned “idiots in Operations” won’t let me.

Obviously, you don’t need to think like a Teflon-coated van driver for every job.

But I do recommend thinking like a travel writer.

Go there first. Think like ‘the locals’.

Because when you return your ideas will be far more considered. And considered creative is ‘commercial creative‘.

Or as my stepdad would bluntly say, “work that works”


And if you’re in need of some very effective commercial and strategic creative, let’s chat

Baz Richardson is the Founder & Creative Director of
Bravo Creative