Schlep Blindness

How [not] to think about marketing channels

Last week on Series V, we talked about using data to build products users love. (Catch up on past editions here.) This week’s edition is based on a conversation with ex-Jumia Food CMO, Justin Irabor, about a confirmation bias that marketers frequently display.

If the response is positive, it might kickstart a new series about growth and marketing. Give us feedback here, and please forward to a friend and share on your social media.


If you asked me to draw up a marketing plan for your brand, I would be reluctant to suggest branding BRT buses, or to invest money in social ads. I might come up with reasonable hypotheses as to why advertising on DSTv is a silly plan and you might bob your head in agreement, because (I’ve been told) I can be quite persuasive when I want to be.

The only problem is that I would be wrong.

I fear spreadsheets but love data. This paradox is something I still struggle with, but I really, really, really like knowing why people in this dimension and that cohort interact with a brand in the way they do. This, of course, means that I love digital marketing and favor it over more conventional flavors. It also means that, because the levers are more discernible for me, I would pick a PPC for search and the Google Display Network campaign over anything anyone would ever suggest for FB and Twitter.

Hell, I prefer email marketing to measuring a Facebook post’s reach. God.

This inherent bias is the actual villain in my noble tale: the journey to becoming a full-stack marketer.

Every channel — no matter how loathsome it might look to you — has its strengths and weaknesses. The sheer fact that it exists means it is useful for something. It is dangerous (almost foolish) to discard a channel for no other reason than you are a snob. Better reasons for forgoing channels should be your budget, your expertise at milking it, the difficulty of attributing, the degree to which your competition has’ established’ themselves in that channel, and the characteristics of the customers you hope to reach.

When you have fallen in love with a marketing sequence (mine used to be content, SEO, and PPC), it is easy to find articles on the internet that tell you how awesome your stack is, and how ineffective others are. But this is like the famous blind men touching different parts of an elephant and assuming it was the whole.

The glorious confirmation-and-defamation bias.

My thoughts? We must always treat the idea of marketing as an idea. That idea has growth as its only goal. It doesn’t care about your technique, and employs whatever means necessary for its fulfillment.

May your charts go up and to the right.

See you next week,

V.