Snake Oil: Genuine Marketing in an Age of Cure-Alls – Dan Russell Book Summary

Snake Oil: Genuine Marketing in an Age of Cure-Alls – Dan Russell | Free Book Summary

Snake Oil: Genuine Marketing in an Age of Cure-Alls – Dan Russell

Snake Oil: Genuine Marketing in an Age of Cure-Alls is a book written by Dan Russell. The book provides an in-depth look at the landscape of modern marketing and how it has evolved over the years. 

It explores the ways in which marketers have been utilizing data and technology to create more effective campaigns and strategies. 

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The book also looks at how marketers can use their creativity and imagination to craft campaigns and messages that connect with audiences more effectively.

The Background

In 2000, if you had a product that made money, you could spend as much as you could raise until the cost of advertising rises higher than your cost of goods. Companies like eBay and Amazon and thousands of others started pouring money into advertisements on AdWords. Free book, podcast summaries

Google became insanely rich, the advertisers became insanely rich, and the customers were happy they found solutions to their problems. Enter stage left: The internet marketer.

The creation of micro-niches is at an all-time high level of intensity and complexity. There’s no way to standardize the education of cutting-edge micro-niches, which means there’s no reliable way to verify someone’s marketing skills.

No shortcuts

When you “do” marketing, you’re setting out with the primary goal of finding some combination of words and imagery that add up to create an idea in your customers’ minds. These aren’t ordinary ideas. They’re not something that comes to you naturally. That’s what makes them unique.

The thing that differentiates companies that can find their big ideas from those that can’t is a willingness to sit in the painful, uncertain feeling of questioning the value of their products. Your big idea is the driving force behind your messaging.

Without it, people aren’t going to connect with your marketing. If your customers don’t feel an emotional connection to your brand, they won’t buy from you.

Marketing OS

A marketing operating system is like an engine for your business that can run automatically and optimize sales. The system has complex parts that work together seamlessly. The four components of the system are: Finding Your Customers, Demographics, Psychographics, and Minimum Viable Audience.

Understanding your customers’ problems, demographics, psychographics, and targeting a specific audience are essential for a successful marketing campaign.

What’s a Marketing Campaign (Really?)

  • Campaign begins with finding customers and a well-planned marketing campaign
  • Campaign dictates where and when content will appear
  • Platforms don’t dictate content

The Campaign Car Wash Part 1: Style

  • Content strategy: every word and video has a purpose
  • Campaign creation process is like the Campaign Car Wash
  • Step 1: Content StyleEducational Content
  • Inspirational Content
  • Entertaining Content

The Campaign Car Wash Part 2: Medium

  • Step 2: Content MediumWritten Content
  • Auditory Content
  • Multimedia Content
  • Experiential Content

The Campaign Car Wash Part 3: The Exposure

  • Step 3: The ExposureOwned Channels
  • Paid Channels
  • Earned Channels

What’s a Marketing Campaign Part 2

The Campaign Briefing

  • Decide on Call To Action (CTA)

Conversions: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

  • Conversion: moving from one step in customer journey to next
  • Sales funnel: customer journey metaphor
  • Fewer people make it to later stages of funnel

The Flaw in Sales Funnels

  • Funnel Grid: simple method for making funnel calculations

The Marketer’s Scientific Method” for CRO

Ask the Right Question:

  • Think ahead to the target data point
  • Decide what to change to test your theory

Do Your Research:

  • Conduct research to inform the experiment’s structure

Form Your Hypothesis:

  • Choose a side and view the experiment in the correct context

Conduct Your Experiment:

  • Use split testing tool to duplicate control and make changes to variable
  • Set up goal

Analyze Your Data:

  • Collect enough data to draw a proper conclusion
  • Reach 95% level of statistical significance

Finally, have one variant or control that outperformed by a large enough margin to be predictable.

The NeuroTactic Library

The NeuroTactic Library is categorized into five buckets, comprising of:

  • Desire: designed to activate the “buy button” in our brains
  • Routing: creating a personalized experience
  • Emotion: emotional engagement in marketing campaigns and customer journeys
  • Attention: capturing and maintaining audience attention
  • Memory: the importance of memories in forming opinions and making decisions.


The concepts shared here are based on a ruthless dedication to marketing science. With that comes a respect for data and numbers.

Your company’s culture of objectivity will define how successful your marketing operating system is. As with any implementation of a new system inside a business, you need buy-in from all levels of the organization.

Be patient if you feel resistance. Be aggressive if you know it’s an urgent matter. But most of all, don’t give up on using this system, even if it is just for yourself at first.

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