Disrupt schemas via surprise and delight


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What the hell is a schema?

Steve Knox of Tremor took me to school the other day. He recently wrote an enlightened post in Ad Age entitled, “Why Effective Word of Mouth Disrupts Schemas”. The premise of the article is how to leverage cognitive disruption to drive ‘word of mouth’.

First off let me admit I had no clue what a ’schema’ was. It sounds like something Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Ali G’ would say to describe a con artist in his West London Village of Staines.

So here is the real definition. It turns out that our lizard brain remains typically in a static state. It relies on cognitive schemas to figure out how the world works. Your brain recognizes patterns and adapts your behavior accordingly. It basically doesn’t want to have to think. For example, every day you get into the car and you know instinctively to drive on the right side of the road. Fast forward and you’re on a trip to the UK or Australia. The first time you drive on the left side it throws you for a loop. Its disruptive to your normal driving schema and it forces the brain to think, thereby it elicits discussion (ie. word of mouth).

Steve provided some great examples in his article. My one favorite was for a new Secret deodorant that P&G was launching. The deodorant utilized a moisture activated ingredient which kicked in when you sweat. The brand understood that this could be positioned against a traditional schema, ie. the more you workout, the more you sweat and the worse you smell. The tagline for the brand became, “The More You Move, the Better You Smell”. A staggering 51,000 consumers posted comments on P&G’s website about the product.

Here is a Slideshare presentation that talks about schemas and the science behind word of mouth by Steve Knox:

The Science Of Word Of Mouth

View more presentations from Jorge Barba.

I started thinking how this idea of disruption applies to the concept of marketing lagniappe. The second ingredient in the lagniappe R.U.L.E.S is the concept of being Unexpected. It’s that little something that’s an unexpected extra at the time of purchase. It’s the unexpected ’surprise and delight’ that triggers disruption of our schemas.

Let’s face it . . . most companies fail to deliver an exceptional customer experience. It’s only when a brand goes ‘above and beyond’ we get shocked. And what happens when we receive that unexpected ‘branded act of kindness‘? We tell our friends, we tweet it and we post on Facebook about it.

Do you agree? Any examples of companies that have provided such a strong brand experience that it prompted word of mouth?

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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