Familiarity Blindness Is Undermining Your Content
Mar 15, 2018
In the age of digital transformation, we’ve talked a lot about the customer journey, elevating customer needs over company needs, and abandoning the product-centric marketing strategies we once held so dearly.
This ideology has served as a rallying cry for all reaches of our organizations, a pure and altruistic North Star. On its shoulders we’ve built our content strategies, our frameworks, our very roles and responsibilities.
But there’s a moth in the machine.
Human beings are prone to bias. It’s in our DNA. We see everything through a lens. And while that isn’t inherently a problem, it can become a pretty big one. What we’re talking about is familiarity blindness.
Familiarity blindness occurs when we start to associate with our audience – when we assume their needs, challenges, and mental models are our own. It happens subtly at first, becoming more pronounced over time. And that’s the kicker – as we continue to focus on an audience, they can become so familiar that it becomes difficult to delineate between their traits and ours. This type of thinking can lead us to faulty assumptions and misguided decisions, all under the guise of creating customer-focused content.
So now that we know what it is, how do we prevent it from undermining our content? The truth is we may never be great at recognizing our own bias, but we can learn how to not get in our own way.
Know What to Look For
It’s easy enough to spot familiarity blindness if you know what signs to look for.
Don’t say things like this:
“What I would expect to see…”
“If I were this person…”
“I like/don’t like ____.”
Instead, say things like this:
“We’ve noticed these customers prioritize things like…”
“This audience values…”
“These users struggle with…”
Establish a Process
We’ve experimented with a number of tactics to reinforce the customer-centric mindset. One of the most interesting involved a pair of glasses. Anytime someone was playing the role of the customer, they put on the glasses. It sounds simple enough, but the physical act of putting on the glasses served as valuable reminder that we were creating something for someone else, and that we needed to revisit the customer’s priorities and mental baggage to validate each decision.
Rely on Checks and Balances
We can talk about innovative tricks all day, but the most effective method for rooting out familiarity blindness is an old standby: Our peers. They help us validate solid ideas by encouraging us speak about our work. . We may never be able to attain a truly objective approach, but additional perspectives can add balance to the equation.
In the quest for more effective content, we have to be advocates for our customers and remember we are not them.
I’ve always liked taking things apart. It wasn’t until I got a little older that I realized how much fun it could be to put something back together. It’s something special to dissect something unfamiliar, learn how it works and make it better than it was before. I like to bring this approach to any project I work on. My focus at Centerline is content strategy. When I’m presented with a problem, I rely on a formula of targeted observation and analysis to guide me towards the goal of providing valuable insights and recommendations.