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There are right and wrong ways to go about marketing, and the pitfalls are many. A lot can be learned by seeing how not to manage your marketing. This original blog series weaves together an entertaining story that will help you navigate 21st-Century marketing with a view from “the dark side,” as “Screwtape” teaches his apprentice “Wormwood” via email how to sabotage your marketing. Enjoy…

To: Wormwood
From: Screwtape
Subject: Data Obsession Disorder

My dear Wormwood,

The most effective marketing and sales regularly evaluate data, insights and feedback and then adjust their tactics accordingly. This is sometimes called the “Feedback Loop.”

Wormwood, this presents another threat to our mission of sowing chaos and disorder into the patient’s marketing & sales. It also presents an opportunity…

They say the danger is in the extremes, and every road has two ditches. We can steer the Patient into whichever ditch and achieve our aims—either is a perfectly pernicious as the other. Here, then, is how we can use data to our advantage:

  1. Convince the Patient that data and analytics are cold, dead and meaningless, and that “gut feelings” or unguided intuition are all you need.
  2. Convince the Patient that data and analytics are the only things that matter, and that intuition amounts to mere “guessing.”

What a lot of people may not know is that science is about both data and intuition (sometimes called insight). Without the intuition of a living, breathing scientist, data is dead; without data, one is left primarily with “hunches.” (And, yes, the marketing or sales professional needs the ability to market scientifically.)

David Ogilvy, the “Father of Advertising,” was big on data. He said, “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.” And, “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”

But he also said, “I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”

Again, you see the two extremes. So which is it? A focus on either to the exclusion of the other is where we want our Patient to land. But should he combine the two concepts, our cause will suffer and we may have to abandon this angle.

Here is the secret, which we must never let out to the Patient or the public: Data informs intuition. The best sales and marketing professional takes in all the left brain data, and then his or her right brain produces insights and judgment calls. The human mind has an incredible capacity to see the forest for the trees—to transform data into higher-level intuitions, insights, plans of action.

This, my ward, we must avoid at all costs.

Your affectionate uncle,


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