Never underestimate the stupidity of your client.

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25 years of delivering successful business strategies, branding, and marketing solutions have taught us a lot of things. The first, which has become City Sidewalk’s First Maxim of Business — Never underestimate the stupidity of your client. 

Don’t get your Yo-Yo all knotted, this isn’t as derogatory as it might seem. It’s simply a smack-you-in-the-face reminder to us that the knowledge and expertise we take for granted is about as easy to understand as those click-based languages from deep in the jungle.

In 1969, Martin Broadwell, wrote an article in The Gospel Guardian titled “Teaching for Learning”, which outlined what eventually became the ‘Competence Ladder’, and later still, the ‘Conscious Competence Matrix’, published by the Gordon Training Institute. 

Competence Quadrant

The first quadrant defines a state called Unconscious Incompetence, to paraphrase, you don’t know what you don’t know. This psychological perspective is often referred to as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which was outlined by a Cornell research paper in 1999, that proved people’s ignorance is often invisible to them. 

As Dunning/Kruger stated, “This meta-ignorance (or ignorance of ignorance) arises because lack of expertise and knowledge often hides in the realm of the “unknown unknowns” or is disguised by erroneous beliefs and background knowledge that only appear to be sufficient to conclude a right answer.

Their deficits leave them with a double burden—not only does their incomplete and misguided knowledge lead them to make mistakes, but those exact same deficits also prevent them from recognizing when they are making mistakes and other people choosing more wisely.”

This overview from Dunning/Kruger illustrates the problem many businesses face when it comes to their marketing, branding, and overall digital business strategies. Not only do most not have adequate skills, knowledge, or competence to do things themselves, but they overestimate their understanding of a necessary solution which can lead to compounding their problems. 

What we’ve found is that even when a business recognizes its shortcomings and looks for advice and assistance from a 3rd party, they don’t have the skills to assess a potential partner’s abilities, comprehension, or competency either. Almost anyone who seems to know more is perceived as a qualified ‘professional’. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

A common idiom to reflect on is, “The blind leading the blind.” 

If you’re unfamiliar with this saying, the blind leading the blind describes a situation in which an inexperienced, incompetent or uninformed person is advised and guided by an almost equally inexperienced, incompetent or uninformed person. The saying’s origin starts in Matthew 15:14 of the New Testament, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

City Sidewalk doesn’t want you ending up in any sort of metaphorical ditch. 

We are all ignorant. It’s a harsh reality of the complex world we live in. We can’t be expected to know or understand everything that affects us. Problems arise however when we rely on ignorance to guide us in making important decisions. The outcomes of which can have devastating results.

A 2008 study of ~1,500 Americans found that only 53% knew electrons were smaller than atoms, and only 51% realised that the earth revolved around the sun, or took 365 days to make the journey.

Perhaps this science-based knowledge isn’t important for people’s day-to-day decision making, but other critical things that should be understood, often aren’t. Take as an example the fact that up to 89% of asthma sufferers in the US take their medicine in a way that does not follow the recommended best practices, and thus puts their lives at increased risk.

Right about now you are probably wondering how any of this aligns with the solutions City Sidewalk provides? 

When it comes to helping our clients, and the business community we are a part of, we believe that knowledge is power. Sharing the concepts and principals behind what we do, and more importantly, the whys are invaluable. The more you know and understand, the better. Understanding the concepts and principles behind our strategic and tactical solutions allows you to take a more active role in the marketing of your company, and is critical to long-term success.

The complexities of marketing today, and the importance of it for your business tomorrow are expanding. We don’t believe in hoarding knowledge and hiding behind some mysterious curtain so we can be perceived as all-knowing and all-powerful. We’ll leave that to the Wizard of Oz.

All we want, all we’ve ever wanted, is to make marketing less fucking difficult.

Nobody can know everything, but we do our best to ensure you understand the rhyme and reason behind everything we do for you and everything that matters to marketing your business.

Got questions? We’ll get you answers.