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.

Holy Cow! A Formula for Brand Resonance and a Birthday

On March 1, 1914 Harry Christopher Carabina was born to Italian-French-Romanian immigrants in St. Louis, MO. I’m a few days late in wishing the voice of my childhood a happy birthday, but I got a feeling he heard the toast I offered to his memory this past Monday in his restaurant. – “To Harry!”
As a Cub fan and a Bud man, Harry Cary has been there since the beginning of my love for the Chicago Cubs. I went to Wrigley for the first time in 1998; four months after Harry passed. The entire team wore the above patch on their uniforms that season and the new tradition of guest singers of the seventh inning stretch began. The day game I attended with my father and our friend Tim and his son Matt, was against the rival Cardinals. Barry Alvarez, then head football coach at the University of Wisconsin, sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game. I can rememebr the entire day like it was yesterday and to this day, consider that day one of the best of my life. As cliche as it sounds, at that point in my life, I had never seen a more beautiful sight than Wrigley Field; the green of the grass, the sounds of the stadium, the sight of the bleachers, and the colors of the uniforms all just blended into one of those perfect moments we are sometimes lucky enough to experience. When I walked into the Friendly Confines for the first time, after thinking about what it would be like for the 5 hour train ride from Ohio… It was perfect.

I’m not sure what it is about baseball that fosters that emotion, but the relationship I have with the Chicago Cubs is similar to the relationship marketers need aim to resonate with consumers of their brands. It’s one thing to be a fan of baseball, but it’s entirely different to be a Cub Fan and a Bud Man in the bleachers on a shirtless summer day in Chicago singing Go Cubs Go. (Hey Chicago, what do ya say, Cubs are gonna win today!!)

Brand Resonance is the measurement of the emotional connection with core consumers, driven by consistent branding of a product… This definition sounds much like being a passionate sports fan rooting for their team through the good and the bad times, right? A consumer of a sports team follows essentially the same purchasing process as consumers of other tangible products. I imagine most of us enjoy an adult beverage from time to time and this past Monday, I enjoyed a Budweiser in honor of Harry Cary. I was with a fellow Cub fan having dinner and to demonstrate our appreciation for Harry Cary’s birthday, I purchased a Budweiser; Harry’s favorite brew. I chose Budweiser not because it’s my favorite, but because it was Harry’s favorite. Cary was a marketing genius, but doubt he ever cared about that title… But make no mistake about it, Harry Cary established brand resonance with Cub fans everywhere while he was in the booth. His love for the game and excitement for his job made watching the Cubs on WGN an event Cub fans everywhere could relate to, and look forward to.

Establishing resonance can be a difficult task for marketers, but a sure way to establish it, is to follow Harry Cary’s formula…
Be passionate. Be honest. Have fun. Be authentic. If you can replicate these four objectives, your brand has a chance to win the hearts of consumers; but if you’re selling Cardinals memorbillia, I don’t care how pasisonate, honest, fun or authentic you are… We’re not buying it.

The Dance

My friends Ty and Cassie shared their first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Rhoad last night in a quaint and beautifully decorated reception hall in Northwest Ohio. I was honored to be a member of their wedding party and while we were in the basement of the church before the ceremony, the famous wedding dance YouTube video came up in conversation. I’d like to say that we entered the Lutheran church to Forever by Chris Brown like the video wedding party, but we saved our big entrances for the reception hall. (Which by the way, everyone said Jessica and I had the best entrance! – Besides Ty and Cassie of course)

I will remember Ty and Cassie’s wedding day for a number of reasons. There were some special moments though that especially come to mind: a smile from Cassie, a hug from Ty, a conversation with Ty’s father, a dance with Ty’s mother, and literally hours of laughter and jokes with our friends.

Creating brand association as memorable and emotional as that of a wedding day can also be accomplished by being authentic and original. Just as the video shows an original wedding party entrance, a brand with authentic, never-seen-before elements creates a branding scenerio that that people will remember and ultimately talk about.

Those of us at the wedding will definitely be talking about the best man’s speech this week but I won’t attempt to explain that. Some things you just have to experience for yourself to really appreciate them. With that said, if you haven’t seen this wedding dance, I hope you appreciate it as much as I did and if you are reading Invizzible Ink to increase your brand’s exposure in the market, I hope you can appreciate the originality and authenticity of the dance.

The things I love about this video from a marketing perspective are the unexpectedness of the procession and originality behind the decision. Two elements essential in WOM success that makes a brand talkable are originality and surprise. The wedding party certainly surprised the congregration with their original entrance and you can bet the topic of conversation later that night at the reception was about their big entrance.

If we create buzz around our brands like this bride and groom did on their wedding day, we can safely assume customers will find our brands. Over 42.5 million visitors have viewed the wedding dance video on YouTube. Wouldn’t it be nice if 42.5 million visitors heard about your brand and went online to see for themselves?

Tebow’s Super Stance

You either love him or you hate him… Sorry Columbus, Ohio but I love him – well, I love what he stands for anyhow. Tim Tebow was in the news again today, but it had nothing to do with his draft status. Tebow made the ESPN show, Pardon the Interruption for his Right-to-Life support stance in an advertisement for the upcoming SuperBowl. The Focus on the Family campaign features Tebow and his mother in an ad supporting Mrs. Tebow’s decision to not follow Doctor’s advice and keep her son despite medical risks. This is a sports marketing discussion so I’m choosing not to get into that topic, but maybe we can learn a thing or two about building a brand from Tim Tebow. Everyone in my industry seems to have an opinion regarding how to build a brand; and everyone coincidentally wants to tell others how to do it and why their particular way is superior. As I watched and listened to Wilbon and Kornheiser discuss Tebow’s controversial stance, I was leaving the locker room at my gym and realized that Tim Tebow didn’t care one way or the other what ESPN, the general public, or any political party thought of his stance. Tebow is a man of veracity. His integrity and character speak for itself and what you see is what you get from him.

In sports it is natural to pick popular athletes and like them or dislike them for various reasons. When I was a kid, I liked Walter Payton from the Chicago Bears because he played the game the way I thought it should have been played. Walter never ran out of bounds when the defense was coming after him; he faced his attackers head-on and worked to get every possible yard for his team. As I got older and became a team member, my pet peave was guys avoiding contact and going out of bounds instead of trying for that extra yard. I think the core reason I respect Tim as much as I do is because he is a tough guy. He plays the game the way it is meant to be played and he leaves everything on the field for his team. That’s a teammate.

You know what you are getting from Tim Tebow and as a consumer you want that same trust in a brand. Consumers have options when it comes to choosing a product, and as marketers, its our responsibility to evangelize consumers to choose our brand over our competition. One way to ensure consumers will choose your brand is to create a sense of trust between your brand and your consumer. The same way Tim Tebow’s teammates are confident that he is going to be the leader of their football team, consumers not only need but deserve that same sense of confidence in your brand or service to meet their expectations. Without consumer trust, your brand is susceptible to scrutiny and negative buzz. The negativity that surrounds a brand or an athlete are equal in the sense that their actions create the same type of person to person conversational buzz. Whether that buzz is negative or positive is in the positioning of each. Tim Tebow positions himself with the moral fiber of Christianty and personal devotion to his religion. It’s authentic, it’s definable, and it’s believable. Is your brand sending the same loud and clear message?

Ordinarily I don’t recall SuperBowl ads after a few days, and they have never convinced me to purchase a product, but all the buzz around this year’s Tim Tebow ad just might prove me wrong. Good for you Tim Tebow. I’m buying your brand.

Life Lessons mixed in Cognitive Psychology

I remember my first real teaching experience; Second grade at Brookside Elementary. I woke up that morning and had a purpose, a certain motivation to somehow make a difference. The darkness of the morning commute allowed for some anxiety as I sipped my coffee. The questions were floating around in my head as I paid close attention to road signs, cautiously driving to Brookside. Work at an elementary school – It always sounded like something I would enjoy and be good at but as for a career, how would I know until I tried it, right? My football career was up in the air after all the injuries and so I decided to try something different for a while; at least until I was healthy enough to go to another try-out.

After stumbling through my first day and finally walking all the students outside to their busses, one of the little girls returned to the hallway hysterical, crying and shaking. I remember being alarmed and thinking, what is the matter with this poor girl! Confused and not real sure what the acceptable gesture was for the situation, I kneeled down, embraced her in my arms a little and tried to talk to her. She had blurted out between wails that she lost her jacket. The school secretary heard the commotion and soon came and assisted me with this dilemma; which I greatly appreciated because it was helpful to have a motherly figure around at this point. I decided that I would go in search of the jacket and bring it to the bus. The girl calmed down a bit and was off to bus twenty-seven, and I off to find the blue jean jacket.
I only took a few steps though until I realized this poor girl was absolutely terrified to go home without her jacket; or any bad news for that matter. She was scared for her safety. Luckily, I found her jacket on a chair in the hall. I picked up my pace back to the bus to give her the jacket but she had turned back in search of the jacket as well and met me in the hall. When I neared the doors of the building she made eye contact with me and as I kneeled down to give her the jacket she hugged me very tightly, as though I had just saved her of something terrible. It was a hug fueled by terror; not the hug that you imagine from a sweet little second grader. She didn’t say a word, just hugged me and took off for bus twenty-seven.

Why do I still remember the tightness of her hug; the smell of her hair; the shaking of her shoulders, the color of her coat and the number of the bus she rode off in?

The answers to these questions much like the answers to questions floating around your marketing department brainstorming sessions are in an understanding of Sir Frederic Bartlett’s work in Cognitive Psychology. The simple answer, because my schema of hugging a sweet innocent girl was interrupted. I have a six year old niece who is an absolute sweetheart. I look forward to visiting her and anticipate her smile and hug when I pull in the driveway and see her peeking from the kitchen window. When we become accustomed to a certain reality and fundamentally believe something to be a certain way or we are used to having something a certain way, it is human nature that over time we will expect it. When that normalcy is interrupted we have an emotional reaction to it, which causes us to talk about it – or write about it in a blog using a translucent blue-shade of Invizzible Ink.

Much of marketing is about experiences and connecting those experiences with real life consumers. Consumers are human beings, breathing and warm and influenced by a variety of dynamics that they can touch and smell and see for themselves. Consumers want to experience your brand for themselves; they aren’t interested in what a stranger on television tells them about a product anymore. Consumers want to feel the terrified hug and smell the little girl’s hair. As advanced as media has become, they still haven’t brought me a product I can smell, taste, touch, or feel… Invizzable Ink –

What is Invizzable Ink?

Invizzable Ink guides the evangelist’s favorite pen.

A product is only what people say it is… Regardless of what your CEO and board of directors want or expect; a brand in 2010 is only what people online and at the watercooler say it is. What’s being said online and at the watercooler about your brand is making or breaking your business; be sure of that. We call it “Buzz” – or in this this case, Invizzable Ink. Invizzable Ink writes the language of Word-of-Mouth marketing . It’s the buzz that surrounds your brand’s existance in society… It’s invisible to the eye but clearly seen at the watercooler. Invizzable Ink is organic matter that Brand Evangelists use to work.