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"Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple."

-Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple


Great leaders simplify for greater impact

This Stanford Experiment demonstrates you might connect with prospects only 3% of the time.

In 1990, Elizabeth Newton earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford University by studying a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: “tappers” or “listeners”.  Tappers received a list of twenty-five well-known songs, such as “Happy Birthday to You” and “The Star-Spangled Banner”.  Each tapper was asked to pick a song and tap out the rhythm to a listener (by tapping on a table). The listener’s job was to guess the song, based on the rhythm being tapped.

Seems simple enough, right? But, before the listeners guessed the name of the song being tapped, Newton asked the tappers to predict the odds that the listeners would guess correctly. The tappers predicted that the listeners would guess their songs correctly 50% of the time. They were wrong by A LONG SHOT!  In fact, over the course of Newton’s experiment, 120 songs were tapped out. Listeners guessed correctly on only 3 out of 120 songs! That’s 2.5% not 50%. The tappers communicated their message successfully only 1 out of 40 times, but they thought they would communicate successfully 1 out of 2 times.

Once we’re given knowledge it’s almost impossible for us to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge.

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that plays out every hour of every day in the business world when your company tries to communicate with prospective customers (B2C) or prospective companies (B2B). Curse of Knowledge problems occur when you unknowingly assume that the people you are trying to communicate with have the same ability to understand the inside baseball industry jargon, concepts and ultimate reasoning you are using to sell what you are selling.

In studies, many Curse of Knowledge participants could not overcome the effects of their bias. Research demonstrates that it’s nearly impossible for people to accurately reconstruct their previous, less knowledgeable state of mind on topics they understand well. This means that CEOs and CMOs who believe strongly in their products and services find it challenging to accurately reconstruct what a consumer or another executive, without their knowledge would think and how they would act without the knowledge that they have. 


Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple—that’s creativity.

Claude Monet

French Impressionist Painter

The Spotlight Effect reveals why most prospective customers aren’t thinking about you. 

For some crazy reason when you visit most company websites, 90% of the content is about how great they are.

Yes, your organization might have the greatest product or service since sliced bread. You might have a great company culture and fun company parties, but the person or company you’re trying to reach doesn’t really care unless you can show them how what you have to offer IMMEDIATELY relates to their needs, wants and desires. Unless you do that in about 8 seconds they will move their attention to something else fast.

This phenomenon has been referred to as “The Spotlight Effect”. The Spotlight Effect plays out hour by hour and day by day in business. How? Because most business leaders think their company and product offerings are being noticed more than they actually are. The Spotlight Effect results in people behaving as if they are the center of the universe (their own bubble), and thus an accurate evaluation of how much they are actually noticed by others is foreign to them.

“Strategies with words” is now the main arbitrage for businesses.

Let’s be honest when it comes to sales and marketing execution, many organizations are BORING and ineffective. 89% of CEO’s want more critical thinking from their marketing leadership and if sales don’t improve their CMO is the first to go. Today, with all the new media platforms available, there is a gigantic opportunity for your company to build trust, have important dialogues and build relationships with your customers. In this environment creative communication strategies are the main arbitrage. It’s the real opportunity that can pay in perpetuity. At Mars Hill Media we help clients invest in strategy and leverage it accordingly.

We're grateful for all your wise counsel and the work you did in helping get Spreading Hope Network into such a better position. Thank you! You're a great strategic advisor! "

– Dan Olson, Executive Director at Spreading Hope Network