The Dunning–Kruger Marketing Agency

Have you heard of the Dunning-Kruger Marketing Agency? They’re the people spearheading the marketing efforts of a lot of small businesses near you.

Actually, I’m sort of kidding… the Dunning-Kruger Marketing Agency is just as fictional as “Sterling Cooper Draper Price” from Mad Men.

I always tell people that marketing is 60% applied psychology and this is right out of the psych 101 textbook. The “Dunning-Kruger effect” is a psychological phenomenon named after Cornell psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger.

According to Wikipedia, “the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability have illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is.”


Simple, actually.

It means that the more you think you know about something, the less you actually do. It means that amateurs think they’re masters, and masters know they’re actually amateurs.

You’ve seen it. The guy in his living room who thinks he’s a better football coach than Nick Saban. The NASCAR fan who think’s it’s easy… after all, it’s all just left turns, right?

Well, the same thing happens in marketing.

Let’s say you sent an email to ten of your friends, asking for advice: your company is in need of an inventory tracking program for the warehouse. Unless your friends all work in warehousing or maybe supply chain management (confession: I have no idea what that actually is), they’re probably going to beg off. “Sorry, I can’t help you with that.”

Now let’s say you send another email to those same ten friends, requesting ideas for a television commercial for your company.

Think you’re going to get all sorts of ideas? Of course! Most of these people will know nothing of marketing, persuasion, or even what makes for good television.

It’s a real problem facing business owners every day.