The Dumbing Down of America. In a Good Way.

Double Cream Eclairs is out on Tuesday! Get it before it’s too late!’

This is a totally made up example of a social media update from one of my previous clients. It doesn’t really tell you much. What is “Double Cream Eclairs”? Is it a psych-rock album? An actual type of eclair? Is it a cookbook? Where do I get it? Why do I want it?

If I could pinpoint the most important suggestion I have for previous marketing and PR clients, it would be to get out of their own heads and look at what they’re saying from the perspective of someone who has never met them before, and doesn’t care about them.

Because that’s who their audience is.

Even someone who follows them might click the “Like” button one day, then completely forget who they are or what they represent the next day. Even someone who supports them might only be paying 25% attention to the status update they’re scrolling past. I mean, I’m sure my husband only listens to 25% of my yammering on about baby otters, and HE CHOSE TO SPEND THE REST OF HIS LIFE WITH ME.

People highly overestimate their own memorability in other peoples’ minds. The beginning of becoming a good marketer is really feeling how nameless you are on a cellular level.

I remember clients who used to feel forgotten when the local papers didn’t cover their event. Newsflash: we are all swimming in a crowded sea of forgotten.

People understand this advice logically, yet they still struggle with it in practice. The spots we need to clarify to others hide in plain sight, just like that pile of clean laundry in our hallway that we blindly walk past everyday because it’s become camouflaged into the furniture.

We don’t remember to explain that our new album is an album, for example.

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The greatest asset to a company’s marketing efforts can be someone who lives far enough outside of the inner circle to provide the perspective of a laymen – while also nailing the internal messaging desires.

Now, don’t get me wrong. When I see the dumbing down of the English language spreading across Facebook like the zombie virus, a part of me dies.

What I’m talking about is using the same old big words and excellent grammar, and then explaining it to me like I’m a two-year-old.

My complaint – that we’re expecting our audiences to know too much – is true in all facets of life: work emails we have to decipher like the Davinci Code, for example. Coworkers who assume we are on the same wavelength about something. And how many parenting classes actually cover what it’s like to be around children?

We all have major gaps in our knowledge that people talk past. Maybe it’s a childhood misconception, like that hilarious episode of This American Life. But even if we’re college educated, eyes-wide-open types of people, we’re not psychic. And we’re all too proud to admit when we don’t know what someone is talking about, so we waste time on deciphering it.

I often think about the dumb advice I’d give new parents; lessons I’ve learned that I never really thought about before.

There are the little things: where do you put your baby when you’re taking a shower? (Answer: you could try a bouncer, otherwise you probably don’t take a shower until she is asleep. Some brave souls might try a shower with the baby playing with toys in the shower with them).

But then there are the larger dumb lessons I had to learn in order to be around children.

One example: no one told me that in order to be a hit with kids, you need to be a fun leader.

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I can be a fun person, and I can be a leader, but it’s really hard for me to do the two at the same time. When I’m just fun, my kids take advantage of me. When I’m just a leader, they don’t listen to me.

Try something intensive, like cooking a complicated recipe, your brow sweating, while you perform a smashing rendition of “You’re Welcome” as sung by Duane Johnson in the hit film Moana, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s hard to be a fun leader. I wish I had known ahead of time, so I could practice navigating my way through the New York subway system while telling knock-knock jokes.

I digress.

When it comes down to it, what I’m suggesting isn’t really dumbing down. It’s clarity.

It’s a reminder that when you’re talking to coworkers, fans, clients or an audience, don’t just picture them naked. (Although you can, if you want.)

Just picture Justin Bieber. He’s the perfect combination of innocent, a little dumb, and since he’s super famous he probably has no idea who you are.

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