Lockdown Lessons: Frosted Tips and the Curse of Knowledge
While the whole world is on lockdown, we’ll be putting out a series of short videos. Things you can do to help your business today, and things you can think about and prepare for when all this is over and done with.
We might not have slick editing or camera-ready haircuts, but we do have valuable advice.
Lockdown Lessons: The Curse of Knowledge
Today’s lesson is all about the biggest threat to your company’s messaging.
The curse of knowledge.
The trap of thinking that people know what we know. And that they’ll think like we think.
It’s something I came up against with the very first piece of copy I ever wrote.
Before I was a copywriter, I worked for the Royal Mail, in a call-centre. And as a training exercise, we were asked to put together a quick advert for a new service.
Special Delivery 9am.
Everyone else produced reams and reams of content, explaining how the new sorting systems worked, how the new optical character recognition software worked, how dedicated post carriers would get up even earlier to get your packages delivered before 9am instead of noon.
I just wrote “Special Delivery 9am. The exact same Special Delivery service. But it arrives three hours earlier.
Spoiler. It’s not that easy.
If you’re expecting this to be a story where a 17 year old Andrew becomes a full-time copywriter for one of the UK’s biggest companies, you’re wrong.
This is a story where a 17 year old Andrew is chewed out for 40 minutes by a middle-aged middle manager with frosted tips.
Because this manager, Craig, was cursed with knowledge. He knew all about the tech, he knew all about the processes, and he knew all about the behind the scenes work.
So he thought that by ignoring all that, I wasn’t taking the product seriously. And that I wasn’t taking him seriously.
Craig knew how impressive all this behind the scenes work was, and he wanted to tell the world. Because he wanted to sound impressive.
But customers didn’t care. They liked Special Delivery because it’d get important documents delivered on time, and they liked the added security of everything being tracked and signed for.
Getting those documents delivered by 9am instead of noon was all that interested them.
It’s Not About How. It’s About Why.
Craig’s mistake is one I still see in all sorts of marketing. Especially things written by company owners, or marketing managers trying to impress their bosses.
They focus the message on what excites them. The thing they’re involved in. The how.
Customers don’t care about the how. They care about the why.
They aren’t interested that you’ve crammed 1.8 megapixels per square inch into a camera. They care that their pictures look better.
They’re not bothered by the hours that went into integrating a custom API, they’re focused on the hours that integration will save them.
And they don’t care about a new optical scanner. Just that their post will arrive three hours earlier.
Always Ask – Why?
So here’s today’s takeaway. You’re going to forget about that knowledge you’re cursed with, and rethink your message.
Take a step back. Take a look at your existing marketing, and ask why? Why should anyone care?
Does what you do save time? Save money? Make people smarter? Better at their jobs? What genuine problems do you solve?
Then refocus your core message around those answers.
Keep it simple, and keep it focused on what matters to your audience, not what excites you. You’ll see much better results.