The Dunning–Kruger effect is a psychological term for a blind spot about your abilities.  If you are unskilled at something, how do you know you are not good at it?

People who are terrible at a skill normally over estimate their ability.

While people who are very good at something, tend to under estimate.

So many marketers are gifted at what they do – but that isn’t advertising.  Lots are completely ungifted at the creative process and what it needs for a great ad.

Those who are aware of their shortcomings, hire great advertising people.  But most stick with the gut instincts which have made them successful in another field and bring them along to advertising.  Why?  Because it seems so similar to marketing.

We wouldn’t transfer the ability to hit a golf ball well to performing brain surgery or doing dental implants.  The fine motor skills that brought you to one place don’t necessarily take you somewhere else.  But marketing to advertising…. what’s the diff?

Great advertising requires distilling the strategy and presenting it clearly in a  provocative and memorable way.  That means understanding the psychology of the target audience and motivating them to action.  Understanding the buyer, not the reason to sell.

Retailers often fall into this blind spot.  They lack only two things: talent and the 10,000 hours of practice needed to master the skills.

There are many well known blunders of this kind.  Classic maybe be Coke’s move to an improved flavour with New Coke, a move made by Coca Cola’s marketing team that was headed by three Latin Americans.*  They missed the patriotic relationship that Coke had with Americans.  That was clearly a cultural blind spot for them.  How would they have known?  Or as Dunning–Kruger asks, “How would they have known that they didn’t know?”

They are not alone.  Many clients have decided they know more about layouts, TV copy, you name it and then make specific requests for changes.  It would be better for them to challenge a recommendation and ask for rationale or an explanation than micromanage.

Agencies do want to be challenged and engage in discussion of their creative ideas.  But micromanaging the details… that is counter productive.

I recall a client meeting with a large gasoline company when the senior guy opined that he didn’t really “get” the ad.  The marketing guy told him it didn’t matter whether he got it or not, but whether the target market got it.  An astute observation by a professional who knew his blind spot.  Approval was given to go ahead.

It is hard to trust someone operating in your blind spot.  And as Dunning-Kruger points out, sometimes it is hard to even understand that you have a blind spot.

* Coke was headed by CEO, Roberto Goizueta (Cuban), President of Coca-Cola USA, Brian Dyson (Argentinian) Marketing Vice President, Sergio Zyman (Mexican)

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