Marketing Must Avoid the Curse of Knowledge

Marketing Must Avoid the Curse of Knowledge

As an expert in your business or industry, you typically use language that makes sense to your colleagues and people in this industry. But those fancy, industry terms and product features are lost on your customers.


Since most people aren't convinced to buy because of industry terms, they leave the website. They ignore ads with product-feature jargon. And they don't engage with social media that glosses over the real problem.

We forget the understanding – or lack of knowledge – we had about a topic before we learned what it all meant.

As marketers, we have to speak to people in their understanding of the problem, not where we are in our knowledge of the problem.

Get rid of acronyms, jargon and high-level words to make a deeper connection with your customers.

People buy because they understand the language being used is at a grade 1-2 level. Not the grade 6 level that we want to use to sound smart or because our colleagues understand us.

That gap between the language used for someone buying and the language we want to use is called the "Curse of Knowledge." Avoid this like the plague.

The Curse of Knowledge is easy to fall into. And it shows up when you're being cute with your copy. It may sound creative because you used alliteration or because a product's features seem clear to you. Yet, you aren't the customer.

Here's the ultimate test, can you explain your product and/or the problem it solves in less than a tweet (160 characters)? If you can, refine it again and reduce it by half.

At that point, send it to ten people in your network you think could be potential customers. They don't have to "buy" the product. But they do have to understand what it is.

If they do, you're on the way to clarifying your marketing and removing The Curse of Knowledge.