A recent article in the Wall Street Journal explained that dolphins and some monkeys have “meta-cognitive” abilities.

In other words, they know that they understand things, and they also know that there are things they don't understand. For example, when asked to identify whether one tone was higher or lower than another, the dolphins sometimes “told” their trainer that they couldn't tell.

In other words, these dolphins, unlike many marketing professionals, will admit that there are things they don't know.

The scenario is familiar to many: a client asks a question of his or her account manager, and that question happens to exceed the bounds of knowledge of that marketing expert. The marketer can choose to take several paths, each leading to different results.

One solution is to pretend that you know everything. Never let them see you sweat, as the saying goes. These marketers simply pretend that they know the answer and find a way to dance around it, and their infallibility remains intact—or so they think. Eventually they'll figure out a reasonable answer and give it to their client.

These marketing types are all too familiar. You won't find them at any educational seminars or workshops, because they believe that they already know everything there is to know. You'll also find them—after their client has taken and implemented their erroneous advice—looking for more dance moves to avoid responsibility for their bad counsel.

Nearly as bad are the one-trick pony marketers, who think that every problem is a nail—but only because being a hammer is the only thing they know. These are the public relations professionals who think that every problem can be solved with a press release, or the advertising execs who think that it's just a matter of different creative to solve any problem.

These marketers will turn the question around for their own purposes. For instance, when asked how best to deliver a news release to the media, such a marketer would convince the client that more focus should be placed on advertising. These folks are a marvel to watch, though….

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Brian Pelletier is President of Green Cardinal Communications. Reach him at bpelletier@greencardinal.com.