Cultural Wisdom by Seth Godin

It's very easy to underrate the value of cultural wisdom, otherwise known as sophistication.
Walk into a doctor's office and the paneling is wrong, the carpeting is wrong and it feels dated. Instant lack of trust.

Meet a salesperson in your office. She doesn't shake hands, she's fumbling with an old Filofax, she mispronounces Steve Jobs' name and doesn't make eye contact.
Visit a website for a vendor and it looks like one of those long-letter opportunity seeker type sites.
In each case, the reason you wrote someone off had nothing to do with their product and everything to do with their lack of cultural wisdom.

We place a high value on sophistication, because we've been trained to seek it out as a cue for what lies ahead. We figure that if someone is too clueless to understand our norms, they probably don't understand how to make us a product or service that we'll like.
This is even more interesting because different cultures have different norms, so there isn't one right answer. It's an ever changing, complex task. Cultural wisdom is important precisely because it's difficult.

And yet...
Who's in charge of cultural norms at your organization? Does someone hire or train or review to make sure you and your people are getting it right? At Vogue magazine, of course, that's all they do. If they lost it, even for a minute, they'd be toast.
It's funny that we assume that all sorts of complex but ultimately unimportant elements need experts and committees and review, but the most important element of marketing--demonstrating cultural wisdom--shouldn't even be discussed.

Art by Jared Nickerson
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