‘Any fool can know, the point is to understand’Albert Einstein

If there is one thing I have learnt during my time in digital is that there is a big difference between knowing and understanding, especially when creating something for a specific audience in mind, because you might know who they are but do you understand them?

Knowing. It’s just knowledge…

Understanding something is being able to take your knowledge and put it to use.

To put this into perspective allow me to give you an example; I have owned a computer for many many years so I know how to use the keyboard, mouse, system updates and WiFi. I don’t understand the mechanics of what’s going on when I hammer the keyboard with my fingers. Nor do I care. As long as my actions allow me to login to twitter, to read my emails and write for this blog.

The real difficulty is moving from knowing to understanding; from simple regurgitation of facts to using your knowledge to innovate autonomously.

Know a number, understand a person

Within digital marketing we often quantify people. It’s one thing to know you have 15000 unique visitors to your site last month,  2000 twitter followers or 500 email signups but it’s another thing to understand their behaviors, lifestyles, likes and dislikes. It’s good to keep tabs on the data, but how can you target what your  ‘2000 twitter followers’ if you do not understand their pain points.

The trouble is the boundaries between knowing and understanding can often be blurred. It’s easy to think you understand something when you have observed or read something many times. That regular exposure doesn’t mean an increased level of understanding though, it’s just reinforcing what you already know.

The more we understand, the better informed our decisions will be during the campaign’s lifespan and that’s why campaigns, regardless of budget, should begin with a research phase. Even if the results of that research confirm what was assumed about the audience it is worth investing time to get that confirmation. Chances are you will learn a few new things about your personas along the way that can better help you understand them and create future user focused campaigns.

To me the idea is simple. You cannot target people if you don’t understand them. You may still reach some of the intended audience, but you also risk offending user without an understanding of their needs. At the very least you will be delivering campaigns that are poorly researched and unlikely to reach their potential.

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