The curse of knowledge


Unlearn your brand

What came first, the consumer or the brand?


Brands exist to serve peoples’ needs, so before starting any kind of branding activity, your audience needs to be your number one priority. Problems occur when brand owners become so fixated on conveying their own messages that they struggle to see how they are perceived within a real world context. This is the ‘Curse of Knowledge’ at play — when your proximity to a subject means that you can’t imagine what it’s like not knowing it. The Curse could cripple you, muddying your messaging and disabling your ability to communicate in the language of your audience. Alarm bells ringing? Don’t panic. Take a moment to step back and self-assess; the Curse could also be your blessing.

Get properly acquainted

In real life, nagging doesn’t work. When was the last time you wanted to do something after being incessantly nagged? The same goes for brands, bombarding your audience with what you think they need to hear will do nothing for your popularity. Instead, look at how your audience talk, think and behave, and discover what motivates them to act with positive intention. Only then can you apply your brand knowledge in an effective way, because you will understand what your audience actually want to know. Audience insights inspire brand solutions that drive behaviour change (which brings results).

Experience it to believe it

We all know there’s no time to waste when you have a captive audience; we need to make good use of that opportunity. Use all of the tools at your disposal and allow your audience to imagine how their life will be improved as a result of your product or service. However you choose to do that, make it really tangible — think about how to entice them back in, how can you male people feel compelled to come back? By focusing on how you want your audience to feel, rather than the information or knowledge you wish to convey, you will make them feel special. And as a general rule, flattery always helps.

Think outside the brand

It’s important to think about new ways to communicate your proposition. Just because something worked well in the past, we need to change and adapt in order to keep people engaged. If you’re passionate about your brand, you will enjoy nothing more than talking about what you do. But the likelihood is, your audience aren’t quite as passionate as you are, so they are more likely to respond if you get a little more creative with your communication. You need to find new ways  to make branded content as accessible and appealing to new and existing prospects as possible.

How do you do that? Whether it’s a new campaign, online video, webinar, infographic, blog post or more traditional form of media, inspiration is unlikely to strike while you're sitting at your desk staring at the product you’re trying to promote.

There’s a whole world out there

Rob Forken, co-founder of fashion and clothing brand Gandys, believes that to make your offering stronger, brands need to constantly expand their scope of knowledge. To excel creatively, we need to “go and explore [because] …you can’t set a standard until you know what’s out there.” In other words, if you don’t know what your competition looks like, how can you beat it? Get out of the office, be curious, read, watch and absorb as much as you can. Acknowledge what’s going on and become part of the conversation. Better still, find a way to lead that conversation.

Future-facing companies like Google are always looking for new ways to boost their teams’ creativity. Every week they run TGIT (Thank Google It’s Thursday) sessions, where all team members share ideas and gauge the current cultural landscape. “You have to act like a sponge and find out what’s happening in culture and life”, says Steve Vranakis, Executive Creative Director at Google Creative Lab. That way, you can evolve with it and provide content that is relevant to your audience. When your brand is inspired by life it will, in turn, breathe life and humanity into your brand. 

Look inside

An essential part of facilitating creativity is through teamwork. The more ideas are shared and explored, no matter how ‘out there’ they are, the greater chance there is of striking gold. Sometimes this means moving away from what you think you know about your team (old knowledge is also cursed) and assessing how different personality types will actually work better together, because if every team member feels comfortable, it will promote better long-term results.

For this reason, Alec McCrindle, Creative Director at Yahoo Studio EMEA, asks his team to ‘brainwrite’, “a process where everyone writes down their ideas instead of saying them out loud to ensure they feel comfortable.” McCrindle’s belief is that feeling at ease goes hand-in-hand with daring creativity; “curiosity, confidence, collaboration and common sense are the keys to productive creativity.” Stepping back to reassess every element of your brand — both inside and outside your workspace — will enable a fresh perspective and a better sense of how to evolve.

Brand equity is gold dust

Knowledge can be a curse if it jeopardises the way you communicate, but it is also a blessing. Knowledge will enable your messaging to be clear, consistent and heartfelt. It will enable you audience to trust what you do. And it will give you strong foundations from which to evolve creatively and innovate. As long as knowledge doesn’t cloud how you perceive your brand in the outside world, it will work in your favour. Embrace the Curse — take a step back and assess where your strengths are (your brand equity), what opportunities they hold, and how your audience can inspire your future. Knowledge gives you strong foundations; creativity will let you fly.