Marketing rationales to avoid in 2011 (part II)

Dr. Andree K Bates


Follows on from “Marketing rationales to avoid in 2011 (part I)”

All people, even marketers, are subject to irrationality. It’s not a question of how smart you are, but of having evolved in an environment where impulsive actions kept us alive. Hunter-gatherers who paused to ponder whether a nearby roar signaled a hungry lioness or a mischievous parrot didn’t last as long as those who simply ran. Indeed, magnetic resonance brain imaging indicates that we are wired to believe the first possibility that enters our head. Taking a rational, second look isn’t instinctive. It’s something we must train ourselves to do.

Much of today’s marketing works, but a good deal more has little or no effect, and some actually drives sales down. That much shouldn’t surprise anyone who understands bell-curve distribution. What is surprising is how few marketers have a clue as to where in the curve their marketing falls. This is not to imply that most marketers willfully deceive. Many have simply and unwittingly embraced time-honored marketing myths—usually based on leaps that someone made long ago without checking for parrots. Either that or they just don’t know where to start looking for accurate information that tells them how to avoid the need for these gut-feel responses and links programs and actions to actual prescribing in a truly rational way.


“Indeed, magnetic resonance brain imaging indicates that we are wired to believe the first possibility that enters our head.”

Good news, marketers. You needn’t be subject to the above-referenced or other irrational leaps. Here are four tips for making rational marketing decisions.

1. Perform a valid analysis

The trick is to stop asking people to tell you their behavior (ALERT: ‘Intent to Prescribe’ Research Alarm) and discretely watch and measure it instead.

Human beings like to believe we are rational and not influenced by advertising, sales reps or whatever. How do you think a doctor will respond if you ask him or her if they use clinical evidence or advertising to make clinical decisions? It is a no brainer. But, it doesn’t just apply to doctors. What about marketers? Even we as marketers like to think we are making our decisions on rational unemotional bases however each of the points mentioned above illustrate a way to make something illogical appear rational. There are lots of ways to accurately analyze cause and effect, just make sure your method is one of them and that it has been properly validated!

2. Eradicate emotion from your decisions as much as possible

Do not be emotionally wed to your ideas to the exclusion of logic and data results.

I can think of so many examples of this. One is from me 15 years ago. I was working in the pharmaceutical industry in Japan and we had an advertisement for a drug proposed by the agency. It was a flower arrangement in the form of a woman. I really hated it. I wanted it stopped but then I stopped. I am not a Japanese doctor. The agency assured us it was the right approach. I put my emotions on hold and went with the advice. The ad was a huge success and sales went up based on all tests including regional tests with control groups and study groups. My emotion was wrong and I had to let it go for the real results we needed.

Another is more recent. A pharmaceutical marketer I know told me that their product was only competing with other drugs in the sub class, but not the broader Rx category. The data did not agree but they insisted on looking at it that way and ignoring the data and could not understand why their efforts were not producing stronger results. Data do not lie. It may be confusing but you need to act like a detective with the data and dig deeper until you understand why it says what it says and what you should do about it.


“How do you think a doctor will respond if you ask him or her if they use clinical evidence or advertising to make clinical decisions?”

Sober up. Your objective is to sell drugs, not to bolster your ego. As you design a valid analysis, decide in advance to accept the results, even if they fail to support your pet theories.

3. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly

Ensure that you collect evidence. Remain skeptical about what the evidence says—as opposed to what you want it to say – and then weigh up all the options before deciding on your course of action.


If you aim to catch yourself when you make wild leaps of logic, and instead approach marketing from a rational viewpoint, the more you will find yourself creating and refining your marketing that are demonstrably and measurably successful in terms of increasing sales and profits.

In doing this you will magically find that the next time a CFO turns their eye on your budget, you won’t have to defend yourself with things like “the advertising did well in focus groups,” [Note: Rozerem in the US] or “I feel in my gut that it works.” As your results will speak for you and your budget will remain intact!

About the author:

For a confidential discussion on any of the topics raised in this article, please contact Dr Andree Bates or Eularis

Do you make rational marketing decisions?