A few years ago someone got me a bottle of ouzo for a present.
The bottle shop they went to only had one brand – Akroplis Oyzo – written in greek looking letters, and with some stereotypically Greek designs on it.
To me, it’s kind of funny. I mean, the Acropolis is one of the most famous tourist landmarks in Greece. It’s selfie-central.
So calling something Greek “Akropolis Oyzo” is a bit like calling something Australian “Sydney Harbour Bridge Beer”.
To an Australian, it sounds ridiculous. But there’s probably someone in Russia who thinks that sounds authentic and alluring.
From a creative perspective, it’s incredibly lame. It says you spent about 15 minutes on it with your marketing department and then went for lunch.
But here’s the thing – it works.
Just as most Aussies would buy Akropolis Oyzo without giving it a second thought, so would many Lativians chug down a nice cold schooner of SHB beer.
Why? Because they’re not overthinking it. They’re not throwing a critical eye over it because pfffft, who can be bothered?
As leaders, I think we can often overestimate our audience. And not overestimate their intelligence. I’m not saying they’re stupid. I’m saying we can overestimate how critical they are going to be in any given moment.
It’s like, you might spend hours crafting the perfect email, striking the right balance of flair and efficiency. Clear and to the point, yet warm and familiar.
And the person reading it gives it 5 seconds before forwarding it on to the relevant person with “plse send jon this stuff. ta.”
When we’re deep in something, especially something we’re creating, we can make the mistake of assuming that everyone is as deep in it as we are, as invested in it as we are.
That is rarely the case.
The master of this is actually Donald Trump. Remember when some professor analysed his language use and found it was set at a grade four level?
Everyone laughed at him and ridiculed his intellect.
But literally, no one had noticed up until that point. Why? Because no one was watching the words he was using. They were just focused on the meaning.
And his meaning, always, was very clear.
I think that’s probably because he’s a product of corporate culture.
Power comes through effectiveness – through getting things done. The best way to get stuff done is be very clear with the people doing stuff for you.
Dumb it right down, make it crystal clear, don’t leave any gaps for ambiguity.
Get your requests focused and bite-sized. Don’t trust people’s attention spans an inch.
Trump talks to the people the way he probably talks to his employees. It’s not an accident.
So be wary of any feeling within yourself that’s telling you that you should use fancy words or complicated concepts to IMPRESS your reader.
As soon as you’re trying to impress, you’ve lost it.
Ideally, you want your reader to think that you’re a boring writer, but always very clear.
In every mode of communication, don’t overshoot the mark.