The Persistent Threat of Overthink

Sure, every marketing program needs a foundation of intelligence.  You can’t provide a solution unless you have a firm grasp of the problem, which requires at least some smarts.  But eventually, all strategies must come to life in creative executions.  All those thoughts have to turn into a few things, and those things better be attractive, inspiring, engaging.

Danger arises when people mistake continued thinking for continued improvement.  All too often, ongoing thinking devolves into OVERthinking: a fretting, left-brain nervousness that attempts to graft logic onto every last decision, right through creative production. 

This is a bad, bad thing. When well-meaning clients attempt to filter the instrumentation choices in the track or the color of the talent’s blouse through the demands of the strategy, something has gone horribly, desperately wrong.  Just like drinking and driving, someone has to help everyone know when to say ‘when.’  That’s what friends are for, particularly friends of the brand.

To illustrate how overthink threatens creativity, consider these three simple lessons drawn from everyday, non-marketing life…

1.  Intelligence does not always translate to popularity.  I mean, Paris Hilton vs. new-Keynesian economist Joseph Stiglitz: who you got?

2.   Logic requires linear thinking, and thus eliminates surprise.  Without surprise, other wonderful qualities disappear as well: magic, delight, engagement.

3.  Don’t assume your market will be intellectually engaged when they receive your message.  They might be watching “Biggest Loser” or Googling “Paris Hilton” (it’s doubtful they’re Googling “new-Keynesian economist Joseph Stiglitz”).

Overthink springs from nervousness, fear’s slightly more presentable sibling.

Because I’m relatively new to this game, I actually haven’t blogged it before but I’ll definitely blog it again: marketing should never be a con game, but it is always a confidence game.  

And when we build confidence around and for and in our brands, we’re doing the job right.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79