A collection of mental models, frameworks, and principles you can use for marketing.

1. First Principles Thinking

The mental model of mental models. A first principle is a basic assumption that cannot be deduced any further. It forces you to think like a scientist. Or maybe more specifically, a chemist.
When used correctly, it removes every assumption and convention. Assumptions are deadly because you’re making a decision on something that may not be true. Conventions are practices done out of tradition or routine. “We’ve always done it this way” Both stifle innovation.

How does it apply to marketing?

Instead of being late to the party with the latest fad, strategy, or tactic that’s working… be the first one to prove it works. Stop being an imitator. Start being an inventor. A lot of marketing is about novelty. And novelty can’t be copied.
So challenge assumptions and conventions. Use the “Rule of 5 Whys” to get to the root of something. Disassemble a marketing strategy into it’s most fundamental parts and then reassemble into something better.


2. Jobs To Be Done

Customers hire products to do things for them just like managers hire people to do things for them.

Figure out what job your customer hires your product/service for and it’ll transform the way you market it.

The Jobs to Be Done framework is a way to reframe how you think about products and services—away from features and toward outcomes.

“The marketer’s task is to understand what jobs periodically arise in customers’ lives for which they might hire products the company could make.”

Personas are often defined by attributes that have nothing to do with causality.

E.g. someone’s age, sex, race, and weekend habits doesn’t explain why they ate a milkshake.

Instead, personas should define the different “jobs” someone would use the product or service for.

A JTBD customer interview focuses on 4 key parts:

– The push of what’s currently happening
– The pull of the new solution
– The anxiety of what could happen
– The attachment to what you currently have

It also helps you understand who your true competitors are:

Direct competitors: They do the same job in the same way

Secondary competitors: They do the same job in a different way

Indirect competitors: They do a different job with a conflicting outcome

3. Circle of Competence

Your circle of competence is the subject area that matches both your skills and expertise.

Don’t be afraid to niche down and build expertise, and then delegate the rest.

4. Inversion

Inversion is the practice of looking at things both forward and backward.

Think about all the ways something can go wrong so you can avoid them.

Ask what would prevent you from achieving your goals.

Play devil’s advocate to test your ideas and make them stronger.

5. Fundamental Attribution Error

A cognitive bias to assume that a person’s actions depend on what “kind” of person that person is rather than on the social/environmental forces that influence the person.

Assume people are lazy, not evil.

Distracted, not uninterested.

6. Measure vs Magnitude

There are two components that determine something’s value to you:
– “Magnitude” — the value of something at a specific point in time
– “Measure” — the time period over which that something provides value

Bias towards marketing with high measure.
Both magnitude and measure are important, but they have very different purposes and uses.

7. Cobra Effect

When an attempted solution results in unintended consequences.

The story goes that the government created a bounty for dead cobras to get rid of them, but instead people bred them to collect the bounty and ended up releasing more cobras than there was originally

Common culprits in marketing?

That website redesign that *lowered* conversions.

Pricing model changes that *lower* revenue.

Discounting that trains customers to buy only when there’s a discount.

8. The Stages of Awareness

Eugene Schwartz covered this in his classic book Breakthrough Advertising way back in 1966.

Tailor your marketing to the stage of awareness of your prospects and always be pushing them to become “more aware”

9. Value to Price Ratio

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” — Warren Buffet

Price based on value, not based on cost or on profit margin.

Price objections are usually an indicator your P/V ratio is too low.


Marketing today needs a holistic approach.

“Without acquisition, you don’t have a business. Without retention, you don’t have a business for very long.” –

Start bottom-up so you don’t have a leaky bucket.

11. Second-order thinking

Failing to consider second- and third-order consequences is the cause of a lot of painfully bad decisions, and it is especially deadly when the first inferior option confirms your own biases.

Case in point Down pointing

12. Law of Diminishing Returns

At what point does something stop working?

13. Ockham’s Razor

Things are usually connected or behave in the simplest or most economical way, especially with reference to alternative evolutionary pathways.

Simpler marketing is better marketing.

Strive for idea minimalism.

14. Overfitting

Overfitting occurs when you use an overly complicated explanation when a simpler one will do.

Reject complexity, minimize assumptions, and don’t let ideas bloat.

Usually the simplest explanation is the correct one.

15. Opportunity Costs

Ben Franklin once said “One is obliged sometimes to give up some smaller points in order to obtain greater.”

Opportunity cost is the cost of the next best option.

The best strategies and tactics are the ones you think “why didn’t we start doing this sooner?”

Bias towards action.

Bias towards efficiency.

Bias towards sustainability.

16. Pareto’s Principle

20% of a set of causes result in 80% of the effects.

What’s the 80/20 of your marketing?

Double down on what works. Diversification is (mostly) a myth.

17. Local vs Global Maximums

Local optimum is a solution that is optimal within a neighboring set of candidate solutions.

Global optimum is the optimal solution among all possible solutions, not just those in a particular neighborhood of values.

Seek the global optimum.


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