Are You a Marketing Weasel? Am I?

I just bought Predictably Irrational. I haven’t read it yet, but I had to buy it because I just read Jeff Atwood’s 9 Ways Marketing Weasels Will Try to Manipulate You on Coding Horror. Jeff relates his post and the nine ways to that book. Jeff says:

In fact, it’s already happening. Witness 10 Irrational Human Behaviors and How to Leverage Them to Improve Web Marketing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What the book talks about, according to these posts, is our craziness as consumers with pricing, supply and demand, and behaviors that don’t really make sense, but happen all the time.

  • There is a cost to free, for example. When a truffle costs 15 cents and a chocolate kiss only 1 cent, 73 percent of us choose the truffle, and only 27 percent the kiss. When the kiss is free and the truffle 14 cents, 69 percent of us choose the kiss.
  • Most of us will go out of our way to save $7.00 on a $25 pen, by driving to another store for instance. But almost nobody will drive to a different store to save $7.00 on a $455 suit. Why not? It’s the same $7? (And this one bugs me, because I absolutely know I follow that pattern, and it makes sense to me.).
  • We’re much more likely to do something altruistically, for the public good, than if somebody pays us.
  • We can be manipulated by expectations. Tell us the meal is gourmet, make it expensive, and we’re more likely to think it’s good than if we say it’s cheap but convenient.

And the conclusion, which makes Jeff Atwood uncomfortable, is the sense of “marketing weasels” manipulating us. Or, the less aggressive sense of it, how marketers can capitalize on consumers’ irrational behavior. I have trouble with all this, because it seems like really good stuff for running a business, but I don’t want to see a weasel when I look in the mirror.


  • Scopulus says:

    Go figure!!!

    The public dictate what the markets sell and how they sell. I hate all this. I like to be given the facts and then i can make up my own mind.

    But to many people rally don’t have a clue. But they will pay!!!

  • Paul says:

    Sounds like a solid review of a book if I ever heard one. I can’t wait to read it now. Thanks and have a great week

  • Strategic Growth Advisors says:

    Tim, thanks for sharing this post. I would also like to commend Jonathan’s very insightful contribution to the discussion.

    In my own point of view, marketers could eventually become weasels if they go out of the “normal” tenets of marketing, such as constantly evolving quality and brand-wise to adapt to newer customer demands, as well as generally making marketing a competitively fair arena.

    Once you stagnate or apply foul tactics that can possibly throw off the competition without warning, then better watch out the next time you look in the mirror!

  • Tim Berry says:

    Well said Jonathan, and it applies in a lot of contexts. It is weasels that are weasels, not marketing people. Agreed. Tim.

  • Jonathan Vaudreuil says:

    Yes, marketers can “take advantage” of people based on psychological factors. Here’s the thing: isn’t the author doing the same thing by creating an environment where his argument looks better than what you believed before reading his book? He’s using the same psychological factors he’s blasting marketers over.

    If his goal was to educate, that’s one thing. It’s not his only goal. To call marketers weasels is a marketing ploy in itself – he’s using a controversial name to get people to read his book. Again, Atwood is using the same principles he’s warning you about to get your money and attention.

    Marketers aren’t weasels. Weasels are weasels.

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