Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

Six Irrational Leaps to Avoid in Marketing

by Steve Cuno  |  
December 16, 2008

There was no Viagra in 1918, but there were plenty of goats.

At the time, the alleged sexual prowess of goats enjoyed legendary status. So it was that Kansas physician John R. Brinkley made a small fortune surgically implanting goat testicles in men seeking to enhance or restore their own virility.

Never mind that the procedure failed to deliver the promised benefit; that Brinkley was a medical school dropout who bought a diploma for $100; or that most of his patients died during or shortly after surgery. A steady supply of men handed over their cash to Brinkley's scruples, and their privates to his scalpel.

I hope you agree with me that the decision to undergo Brinkley's procedure was irrational. The risks of infection, mutilation, sterility, and death were clear... yet otherwise presumably intelligent men convinced themselves to go ahead with implantation anyway.


Of course, you already know the answer. People who really, really want to believe, will believe—regardless of where the evidence points. Brinkley's patients really, really wanted the promised benefit, so they embraced his trumped-up "success stories," and disqualified the negative outcomes.

We haven't changed much in 90 years. Consider the people you know who set aside evidence and common sense in favor of staying in bad relationships, racking up charges on psychic hotlines, lending money to losers, or wearing magnets to ward off arthritis—all motivated by an acute desire to believe.

Or, consider marketers who believe that their programs are working, even when the evidence says otherwise or, more often, when there is no evidence at all.

Read the Full Article

PRO Membership is required to access this how-to marketing article. Sign up to read the full article and gain access to all of our PRO content!

Sign up for a 2-Day Free Trial  Learn more about PRO Membership

Steve Cuno is chairman and founder of RESPONSE Agency (, a direct-response marketing firm in the Salt Lake City area. He is author of Prove It Before You Promote It: How to Take the Guesswork Out of Marketing, due in bookstores December 2008 (John Wiley & Sons). Contact him via

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
  • This has a 4 star rating
5 rating(s)

Add a Comment


  • by Sondra Tue Dec 16, 2008 via web

    Do I hear an amen?

  • by Josh Tue Dec 16, 2008 via web

    I especially like Irrational Leap #5. It seems like often times because we can push our products from the comfirt of our desks, we become over reliant on our marketing efforts. Then, when sales go up, since we have no idea what is actually going on in the world, we immediately attribute it to our marketing campaign. I am a grpahic designer, and I can't tell you how tempting it is to take credit for sales based on my design or creative idea. It is much more practical and advantageous to the bottom line to think through the trends more carefully. Thanks Steve.

  • by Dusan Vrban Wed Dec 17, 2008 via web

    Steve, this is by far the best article I have read in past years I think.

    By your permission, I will translate it to Slovenian language and post it wherever I can. :-) I'm even considering to have it as an intro to a afternoon-discussion we will have in January in our marketing association.

  • by Julia Wed Dec 17, 2008 via web

    Possibly the best opening line I've ever read.

  • by Paul M Wed Dec 17, 2008 via web

    Loved the article, just ordered the book from your website.

  • by Shekar Prabhakar Thu Dec 18, 2008 via web

    Right on the money. In spite of evidence, we continue in our irrational behaviours. I especially like the one about connecting cause to effect. There is no substitute to observing and testing in most marketing situations.


MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!