Marketing And The External Brain: Technology to the Rescue

external brain marketing

Text by BRADY EVAN WALKER | Design by Rachel Eunjin Kim

In the romanticized past of Mad Men, marketers were strategic artists. Don Draper would just look deep inside himself to find the emotional core that would sell the most cigarettes, cars, and plane tickets.

But the proliferation of channels and distractions in today’s hyper-connected world means marketers must get smarter. New skills from across a range of disciplines are required. There are analytics to discern and flip into actionable insight. There’s understanding SEO in both theory and practice. Creating original and interesting content across countless channels. And unstructured data gushing from the ears!

It doesn’t just take time to do these things. It takes time to learn how to do these things.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a second brain to take over for you? Your primary brain could focus on the things you’re good at!

Enter: the “the external brain,” defined as:

…the idea that as one increases their information output to external devices, the more symbiotic their internal brain becomes with an external technology.

This is why companies like Persado, Atomic Reach, Ometria and others exist: to be an external brain for marketers and advertisers.


“But!” you may contend, “marketing is still a creative field.” Yes, it is, but learning across multiple fields provides an information advantage (and therefore an innovation advantage) because so many people prefer to specialize.

Researcher Dean Keith Simonton analyzed the careers of 120 classical composers in search of hard data on creativity. The conclusion, as quoted in Scientific American, is that “creative experts tend to have broader interests and greater versatility compared to their less creative expert colleagues.”

So if marketing is a creative field, and specialization is deleterious to creativity, marketing teams must expand their minds. But how?

external brain marketing


In 1994, genius investor  and all-around philosopher king Charlie Munger delivered a now-famous speech in which he elaborated on the techniques of honing one’s mind by developing a “latticework” of mental models (ways to view a problem or decision).

You probably have expert copywriters who’ve honed their skills on failed novels, a marketing coordinator who lives life from checklist to checklist, and designers who might never pay off their art-school loans. But do you have a mathematician? A data scientist? A linguist who can quantify your creative? A psychologist?

The specializations that marketing has cowered from for fear of sacrificing creative integrity are exactly the bases of knowledge that will breathe new life into strained digital marketing teams.


Before you Slack HR to get you a data scientist, consider the (cheaper) possibilities available (that don’t eat your snacks): machine-learning platforms that are pupils to the very diversely brained geniuses you want on your team.

Take Persado for example.

For years Persado has collected response data on over a billion digital ad impressions. Our cognitive content platform has learned from each and every one of them.

Our content engineering team comprises philosophers, linguists, and data scientists who have broken down marketing language to its core components.

With this in place, our team of experimental design experts can test tens of thousands of words and phrases.

Our cognitive content platform can then quantify the performance and value of each piece of the content puzzle, taking into consideration variables such as what region the content was sent to, what industry the content advertised, what channel it went through, and what goal the brand had in mind.

external brain marketing

With the masses of data any brand receives, the only way to make effective decisions is to export your baffling knowledge base to an external brain armed to the teeth with insight-retrieving algorithms.


Every process in your brand’s marketing practice needs to be refined and sophisticated. You can only hire so many specialists to create a comprehensive team. So how do you achieve the knowledge diversity required to stay ahead?

Up top, I called Don Draper a “strategic artist.” Marketers must be strategic artists. But in changing times, strategy too must change, and the sands have rarely shifted as quickly as they are today.

As author Robert Greene wrote in his classic The 33 Strategies of War:

Actually, your past successes are your biggest obstacle: every battle, every war, is different, and you cannot assume that what worked before will work today. 

To be sure you’ll be as on point next time as you were the last, you’ll probably need an extra brain.