Talking About Schema


I earned a minor in Psychology at the University of Findlay because I took 21 hours of it before deciding to major in English. As a result, I learned about “Schema” from Milton Peters, professor of my Psychology II class. He quoted Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development while speaking of Assimilation and Accommodation. During a Piaget discussion on the second floor of Old Main, we discussed Schema and the human behaviors associated with it. Fast forward 10 years and I’m sitting in a WOMMA conference breakout session, captivated by Steve Knox the CEO of Tremor, as he taught how schema related to WOM marketing.

To summarize the various definitions of the science; a schema is a mental structure we use to organize and simplify our knowledge of the world around us. We have schemas about ourselves, other people, technology, eating, exercising and in fact almost everything. For example, a child may first develop a schema for a dog. The child knows that a dog has fur, four legs and a tail. When the child encounters a cat for the first time, he might first call it a dog because it fits his schema of a dog; he sees an animal that has fur, four legs and a tail. Once the child is told that this is a different animal called a cat, he will modify his current schema for a dog and create a new schema for a cat.

During the session, Knox presented an image of the Miracle on the Hudson. Sully saved hundreds of lives that day and solidified schema-consideration as part of the marketing mix. When we look at this image we see something that disrupts our schema. We associate planes with the sky and not water so it’s something that we will remember and talk about. Would you be surprised to know that ten days after the Miracle on the Hudson there was a small aircraft crash that killed 14 people in upstate New York? I doubt any of us remember that plane crash because we weren’t talking about it. Unfortunately that story is true. To complete the analogy, when planes crash, schema allows us to know what happened to the passengers without having to see the wreck, although we can’t help but look. And we can’t help but look because a train wreck, like an air plane on the Hudson River with people standing on the wings is many degrees away from what we believe to be ordinary… and when it’s extraordinary, we talk about it.

Seventy-six percent of Americans talk about at least one brand every day according to a 2009 research study conducted by the Keller Fay Group. With three out of four consumers talking about brands, it’s essential that Brands give them something to talk about; and one certain way to ensure they are talking is to disrupt their schema.

It’s About People

In the midst of an aimless adventure to find the meaning of life, I stirred one winter morning after a sleepless night in Chicago to find myself stress-riddled and in search of the meaning of my existence… That’s a pretty deep intro for an Invizzible Ink blog post but looking back at my five month hiatus from blogging, I intrepidly realized that humans cannot pretend to be someone we are not. Me, I’m a writer. I have been since the fourth grade when I won my first writing contest. (Insert unabashed plug) Fast forward twenty years five months ago, I was adhering to the demanding challenge of working full time in Chicago and going to grad school full time in Ohio while keeping a ridiculous travel schedule and managing school and work projects; And usually between the hours of midnight and 3 am maintaining a decent marketing blog. The trick to accomplishing all these goals was simple; Two years of non-sleep week nights. Healthy? No. But certainly advantageous to the accomplishment of what I set out to do.

What I found to be true of this endeavor was that one cannot maintain that routine for much more than two years; at least I couldn’t. Something had to give. Unfortunately for Invizzible Ink, when I started my new job in Chicago, my writing was put on the back burner. Not by choice necessarily, but by default. Hobbies took a back seat; evenings and early mornings gave way to the furious pace of trying to get up to speed with senior and other experienced team members conducting business. It’s exciting and exhilarating to make decisions that affect national programs and millions of impressionable consumers, but soon I found that the core of Invizzible Ink; the marketing mind that defined my day-to-day professional career was lacking organic substance. There was something missing that balanced my holistic mind-operation. Austin Powers would diagnose as a loss of mojo. For me, my mojo is writing. And I wasn’t writing. I was tired and not inspired until finally I realized what was missing… I needed to bring back Ink!

So how does one lose their mojo anyway? Well, I don’t exactly know but I know how one gets it back. One returns to their utility. – The definition of one’s purpose for living and ambition to leave one’s mark on the world. I’m not sure if Webster or Wikipedia would agree with my definition of utility, but in Business Ethics class, our professor John Annarino taught us the meaning of utility and it stuck with me and resonated deeper than any other lesson I learned in two years of graduate studies. Why? Because it was humanized. It meant something that couldn’t be added or subtracted. It lived and breathed in each member of our class and was left for each of us to decide for ourselves how we would define our personal style to learn, lead others, and live life.

One’s utility is the most important aspect of business in my opinion. It serves as my personal guide to making decisions and dealing with relationships. I vowed after reading Good to Great by Jim Collins and receiving years of coaching from hard working volunteer football coaches that life is about people first. “First who, then what,” as Collins would say. As I would say, life is too short and opportunities to make a difference in society are too abundant, to not focus on people first before the subject. At the end of my day, I work with people and for people so why not direct my focus on people? – A widget has never generated a single emotion that motivated, encouraged, or taught me a lesson that made a difference in my life, however I could go on for pages about the people in my life that have made Invizzible Ink possible.

Speaking of people, I think we as humans seek and desire many forms of acceptance from our families, employers and significant others in our daily routines to make sense of our existence here on Earth. I believe when we sacrifice our personal passions for obligations beyond our control, we are moved from living-comfort, to a place of reaction. When the speed of the game gets too intense and we are not in control, we lose our ability to make concerted and logical decisions. We panic. Get ahead of ourselves and forget the basis of how we progressed ourselves to our current state of being. And how did we all get to where we are today? People helped us. – Granted many of us have individual talents and successes but collectively, there has always been some person somewhere who gave an opportunity, believed in us, sacrificed for us, or extended a hand to us in some way. It’s people, folks! It’s not the stuff in our lives, it’s the people that make our world what it is. And I feel sorry for those who don’t get that, but it’s also my utility to help them realize what they are missing.

Experience of a Lifetime

Have you ever recognized there are these intangible characteristics about special people who enter our lives that make it impossible to forget them? We all probably have someone in mind right now who fits into that “special” category. Could be someone we know personally or someone we’ve heard speak on television or in person; regardless, we agree there are special people who enter our lives at various times for various reasons. These people are for whatever reason timely and purposeful in our lives, and often they encourage us or perhaps just influence us to spend time in personal reflection. They spark internal thought processes we may not have been inclined to reach on our own and coincidentally, as a result of these thoughts we attain a rejuvenated view of ourselves.

One of those people in my opinion is Randy Pausch. If you have never seen his ‘Final Lecture’ I strongly encourage setting an hour aside and to give it a go. The man is an inspiration to many and he strived to help people become better at whatever it was they wanted to do. And he did it with a purpose, and a certian will to live that I can only describe as admirable.

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted” – Randy Pausch

This quote sums up plenty of experiences in my life and as a result, I am better equipped as a person, as an employee, and as a leader. I think its almost humorous that employers post some job postings and list “x” number of years as a requirement for a certain position and then disqualify candidates because of a lack of what they think experience is. Experience is not quantifiable in a sense of placing value on the number of years someone has been doing a job. Real experience is qualitative. It’s not what you do in those 5-7 years of work, it’s how you do it that tells the true story. I may not have 10 years of management experience but I’m the oldest of four siblings and my first job was watching my baby sister during the summers when my parents were working. I sacrificed many of bike rides with my friends, trips to the swimming pool, and neighborhood basketball games when everyone else was on summer vacation. But experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. Yea I wanted to do those things at the time, but I got something even better instead. So here’s a tip to my colleagues in human resources and hiring managers; Don’t think you know someone’s value based on their age and how many years they have been doing a job; they are obviously trying to advance themself from that position… Dig a little deeper and be creative in your approach. Not sure about you, but I would rather work with someone young and passionate about people and change, than someone with 15 years of leadership experience who is set in their ways. But that’s just me.

4 tips to Listening in the Huddle


Twenty-One! Twenty-one!! Ok here we go: Explode to I-Buster right, lucy trade, 161 Y-shallow cross half back Ralfie, check, I-buster right, middle 27 bob-scissors on two…

Imagine you are in the huddle, it’s 3rd and goal with four seconds left to go in a tied playoff game and your team is down five points… Do you know what to do if the defense lines up in cover 1 but rolls to a cover 2 zone? What if they stay in Man? What if the Mike Linebacker blitzes? What if the strong safety blitzes? Do either of these plays have a built in “hot” route? – As you approach the line of scrimage and get into your stance you hear the quarterback make an “Omaha” call, what do you do now? – If you were an NFL tight-end, you would be required to process all of the previous information in less than six seconds. As an added variable, your team is the visitor and the home crowd is making so much noise you can actually feel the vibrations ringing in your helmet from the crowd.

– Plays called by NFL quarterbacks can be up to twenty words long. So as you might guess, it’s important to listen in the huddle. In business, like football, listening is a skill that requires some cognizant adherence in order to be great. We sometimes forget to listen or do a poor job of listening and the resulting outcome is undesirable. In comparison, if we would have done an exceptional job of listening, not only would our outcome have been favorable, but our ability to lead would be exemplified by creating an opportunity to help others understand. When you are in a huddle with time running off the game-clock you don’t have the luxury of asking questions or requesting the quarterback to recap what he just said; you do however, have to be prepared number one, and number two, you have to listen and have total concentration and focus in this situation.

Listening is a skill that separates many of us, and ultimately makes a leader special. As a manager, there are few actions you can demonstrate to your employees that will impact them personally more than being proactive in helping them accomplish their personal goals. Not only will your emplyees be impressed that you are willing to help them, but recalling the conversation in which you discussed goals with an employee will also show them you care. And if you show your employees that you care about them… Assuming you hired morally sound people, you can expect them to give you the same level of respect and do the extra little things it takes to be great. — At the end of the day, listening is about caring. If you care about people, you will listen to them and value what they have to say.

However, if you have a hard time paying attention and have a touch of Attention Deficeit Disorder like I do, a few tips I picked up along the way that might help you out include:

1) Make Eye Contact-
Looking at the person talking while simultaneously reading their lips will help you retain information. Using your sense of sight and hearing together will also help improve information retention. (especially if you are playing on the road)

2) Recap confusing or uncertain lessons-
Restating what someone tells you allows you to process the information, restate the information in your own words, and open the dialogue back up in case you missed an element of what you were told. Also, hearing the information a second or third time will help you recall the information when you need it.

3) Ask Questions-
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Please. First of all, there are very few places in business for shyness. Be accountable and ask questions in regard to information you are unclear about. It’s your responsibility to know what you need to know. It’s much more embarrassing to be the person on film running the wrong route or the person who brought the wrong presentation to the meeting.

4) Knock the chip off your shoulder-
Listening is about caring. Value the people around you and seek to learn from them at all cost. If you walk through your day believing you are too busy to talk to your employees then you are missing out on an invaluable education and almost guaranteeing that later when you are actually paying attention to a conversation, a previous topic will come up and you will be the one left in the dark. All because you didn’t think it important enough the first time… It’s hard to redeem yourself after this happens – It’s far better as well as utilitarian to simply care about your people and listen to what they have to say.

Does Sport Breed Entrepreneurs?


The game of football has taught me to be a leader, a teammate, a critical thinker, a problem solver and most of all to be accountable for my actions. It has also given me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to. I played the game of football competitively for sixteen years (Starting at age nine and retiring from the NFL at age 24). In all those years of playing this game, I have adopted a few themes as part of my life’s DNA which I believe define me as a man as well as an entrepreneur and member of society. Characteristics such as integrity, character, commitment, work ethic, leadership, and being a community ambassador have become the essence of what the game of football has taught me to replicate as I create my legacy.

I learned a long time ago, on a football field, that your team was the most important ingredient in the formula for success. Without others, one’s individual success is impossible; and so people should be every organization’s number one resource. On the football field, it’s imperative to have a talented quarterback, because that is generally the most important position on every team. However, without the entire team working for the same goal and respecting the quarterback, the likelihood of failure is high. The same holds true in business. Constructing a solid team is vital to an organization’s success. It’s essential to find a solid leader, someone the rest of the team will respect and follow to that end. The supporting team may be a variety of personalities and plethora of different skills and individual characteristics, but ultimately, a team needs a captain to lead that team to success.

Vince Lombardi, a legendary NFL coach said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” When building a business, it’s foolish to think one can do it alone. Employing the right people is essential to your team’s success. Also, the reward is much greater when a goal is accomplished as a group rather than alone. Having someone beside you to celebrate with is certainly more enjoyable than solitude. Togetherness is crucial when accomplishing, as well as celebrating. A football team requires eleven players on every play to be together to have success. If one player does not do their job, the play usually fails. Too many failures ultimately equal defeat. It’s really that simple at the end of the fourth quarter. A coach can evaluate a game by simply pointing out the times a team did not work together as one unit and find reason for a loss. The same holds true for success. A coach can evaluate a team’s win by pointing out the consistency of togetherness and number of times a team carried out what they had planned to do throughout its preparation period. Business is much like winning a football game. You prepare for a test by doing research, scouting the competition, preparing a strategy, implementing that strategy and measuring your success so that you can replicate it and understand through statistics where your team is inefficient, and where to focus your strengths and resources to capitalize on future opportunities.

It’s in this preparation time that I believe the sport of football teaches and prepares those that play the sport to be leaders and future successful entrepreneurs. The first reason is due to the amount of time required to be successful. Work ethic is of optimal necessity for an athlete wishing to play in the NFL. The competition is ruthless and the process to make a NFL team is at times, dare I say barbaric. The process is so incredibly demanding that many fail due to the lack of mental toughness. This defining element however, prepares players for future success by engraining a sense of work ethic that is incomparable to most industries. Training camp in the NFL is six weeks of fifteen-hour-days; and completion of that is just to earn consideration for a final position with their organization. Making it to the end of camp doesn’t mean you made the team, it means you made it through another round of interviews.

The executive staff and coaches will make the final decision for your future employment with their organization. Often times your salary requirements will not be in line with what the organization is proposing, or your experience may not be exactly what they are looking for. It may have absolutely nothing to do with your ability or potential; the timing may just not be right.

Football has prepared me for life in business though a multitude of successes as well as defeats. As an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to risk failure to attain your dreams and accomplish your goals. That’s what makes the reward so great!
I was told countless times upon college graduation I was wasting my time working out and preparing to play another football game. – And, after signing a contract but being cut before even having the opportunity to go to training camp my first year in the NFL, I thought maybe they were right… For about day.

I flew back to my hometown, woke up the next morning, and went to my high school practice field and ran gassers and sprints until all my frustrations of being fired were expelled… and that day I started to prepare for my next opportunity.

The game of football teaches resiliency and fortitude in a way no other sport can teach. The game of football takes so incredibly much physical strength and ability, but it also takes a unique mental composition to be the best of the best. Due to some very special people and an internal desire to succeed, I was more than ready for my next NFL opportunity, which came six months later in the form of a workout with the New York Giants… And later in the form of standing on the 50 yard line in Foxboro, Massachusetts while the National Anthem played over the loud speakers. A nationally televised game on ESPN and F-16 fighter jets buzzed the stadium as goose bumps and a tear formed on my skin; I overcame the odds of playing professional football and proved to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to.

3 Tips to Solidify your Pro Athlete Endorsement

Finding the right athlete who stands above all the rest to endorse your product or brand can be a circuitous challenge if you do not have a proper strategy for aligning the right personality with the role. It’s important to have a clear outcome and goals defined first, before aligning an athlete with your brand. By creating a plan for your promotion strategy based on specific goals, a brand manager can use the Invizzible Ink Selection Model for choosing an athlete and be confident their project will produce a favorable return on investment. Setting goals may seem like an obvious statement, however marketers are sometimes captivated by the opportunity to work with an A-lister, that they miss their target audience. When this occurs, not only does the project result in an unfavorable outcome from an investment standpoint, but your brand suffers a set-back in a volatile economy. It makes far greater sense to understand your entire project and choose representation based on a desired outcome, not a desired athlete.

The Invizzible Ink Selection Model is a personalized and multifaceted marketing tool used by brands to ensure their goals are met. The foundation of the selection model was built on a number of essential marketing elements that have proven to increase brand awareness, resonance, and revenue. The formula itself is complex in its entirety, however many of the weights assigned to each variable are simply common sense understandings of the sports world and market. While experience has proven to be a leading variable for our brand, it’s not the only element with which we have to base our decisions. What we can share today are tips to consider when choosing the right athlete to be the ambassador of your brand. Remember: No strategy is aligned for success without a plan and specified goals…

1. Background Check… Not with the DMV either. Depending on your project, your brand may have a need for a grassroots ambassador, or a major Public Relations identity. In either case, its vital to the success of the campaign to have the right person in place. One way to ensure your brand has the right person in place is to do your homework. Researching candidate’s backgrounds, i.e. – college course of study, family, interests outside of sports are just a few criteria I research before recommending an athlete. For example, if your firm is looking for a sports figure to be the spokesperson for a national PR campaign, you probably don’t want someone uncomfortable in a public speaking role. Going to a search engine and doing some light stalking will produce a plethora of information valuable to gaining insight to a sports figure. An athlete with a communications degree, a broadcast journalism degree, or a similar course of study will position your brand with an interested and qualified athlete. When this happens, the believability of the athlete’s message is increased and brand resonance is attained. By putting the right people in the right places, as Jim Collins expalins in his book, Good to Great, a win-win scenerio is accomplished for both athlete and brand.

2. Does your Brand align with a foundation or charity? Many athletes today have their own foundation, 501 c3, or preferred charity and will align their interests or even passions with brands that support the same programs. Particularly to those brands or organizations looking to hire sports figures in your smaller markets, this bit of information may be a gold mine. If your organization can align itself with this type of athlete while being savvy and strategic, you may find yourself a partner as opposed to paying for a speaker.

3. Who are you getting? — A good teammate? Good in the locker room? Have they worked with other brands? — Brand managers in the sports industry need to know the answers to these questions before signing a deal. I’ve seen far too many examples of athletes showing up late or not showing up at all for an appearance on behalf of an organization or brand, that it literally ruined the event. Disappointed students at a school, fans holding jerseys to be signed at the mall, teams waiting in the locker room before taking the field… Seen it all and felt for all of them. At the end of the day, if your organization is going to align with an athletic figure… Remember, there is a person behind that figure. All-Pro linebackers do not equate to all-pro people. The kids at your local middle school would much rather meet a pro football player and hear his story of what it’s like to be a back-up and play special teams in the NFL, rather than be big-timed by the star and promised a reschedule.

Individual Sports Hit Home


Over the course of the past two weekends I have spent time supporting high school sports in Ohio at the OHSAA state swimming and wrestling championship tournaments. Working in these sports have been a relatively new experience for me as I have always participated in team sports. My cousin Aaron was pretty much a stud swimmer in high school and went on to a successful career at Rutgers University, and many of my college football teammates at the University of Findlay were successful high school wrestlers, but was as close I really came to individual sports at the high school level besides my average showing each year as a member of the OGHS Track team.

What I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that there is something fundamentally different between team and individual sports at the high school level when it comes to competing at the state tournament. While I will always believe the greatest accomplishment one can achieve is a team championship title, at the end of the competitive day, it takes a group of individuals to contribute to that effort to accomplish that goal. There is certainly a crowned team award for first place in high school swimming and wrestling, but ultimately in sports such as swimming and wrestling, the attention is placed on the state champion. There is only one athlete atop the standings board in individual sports and I have been fortunate to experience some state champions in Ohio be crowned over the past two weeks.

Without a doubt the highlight of the past two weekends has been enjoying the all-access pass for the tournaments granted by the OHSAA. With the American Dairy Association’s involvement in high school sports and partnership negotiated with the OHSAA, we have been afforded access to the personal sights and emotions the athletes competing in the tournaments experience. As the relationship manager with the OHSAA, I have been quite fortunate to be in the action first hand. It’s wonderful to see up close and personal the emotion on a state champion’s face as they beat their opponent and realize they are number one.

Maybe the best feeling I’ve experienced in recent weeks came after experiencing the first state championship wrestling match of my life. The 103 lb match yielded a champion from Lakewood St. Edwards, Dean Heil. The kid is only a freshman but stood like a man in the circle of the Jerome Schottenstein Center platform as a champion. The excitemet on his face and abundance of emotion as the referee raised his arm as state champion caught me off guard. As the reality set in for Dean Heil that he was number one in the state of Ohio, reality set in with me that I was incredibly happy for him… Not so much that he had just earned points for his team, but because he was the best in the state of Ohio at what he does. It was a new feeling for me to experience, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity.

Heil was a gracious champ; shaking hands with his opponent and his opponet’s coaches. Then feeling the excitement take him over, he jumped into the arms of his awaiting coaches; embracing in a heart-felt bear hug. Soon after feeling the love from his coaches, Heil was grabbing his warm-up and off in a fast jog for the bleachers… At the end of his jog was his father; waiting for his son with a proud tear and open arms ready to embrace his state champ. It gave me goosebumps as I watched son and father share that moment. Overwhelming joy and pride radiating from a hug between father and son… It was a beautiful moment that only sport could have provided. As I approached hour 12 of that particular work day, I became overwhelmed with a sence of fulfillment and reward; and realized that sharing that particular moment with Dean Heil and his father was the reason that I do what I do… It wasn’t about the long workday any longer, it was about the brief moment that only a long day could have offered.

Invizzible Ink was created to highlight the positive aspects and rewards that sport offers our communities. Experiencing first hand a freshman in high school take the Division I honor of best of the best was a beautiful and very rewarding opportunity. It reminded me that sports marketing and working in sport is more than a business, it’s an opportunity to make a difference.