Among the things we die for in radio are the personal recommendation, word-of-mouth promotion, and the “LIKE” button on Facebook- all powerful tools in marketing. They are direct, organic and free, and isn’t that as good as it gets? How do we get our listeners to spread the word for us? Just break your customer’s schema, says Tremor CEO Steve Knox.
According to Knox, a schema is a model of what is expected in any given context and he suggests that breaking a schema while staying true to the core values of your product will make customers talk about your product, often for a long time. Knox says that “the brain cannot live in a state of disequilibrium. One way it gets back to (equilibrium) is by talking about the disruption. Significant disruption causes sustained talk.”
By example, Knox believes that Sully Sullenberger’s heroic Miracle on the Hudson event was noteworthy because it broke a schema, suggesting that “our schema is that planes don’t land on water. We all had to and still do talk about this because our schemas were so significantly disrupted.”
It’s easy to see how schema-breaking can generate word-of-mouth in the marketing world.
Remember the KFC Double Down sandwich, released earlier this year? The concept seemed ridiculous (breaking the schema of what was normally expected at KFC), two deep-fried chicken breasts functioning as the “bread” in a sandwich of cheese and bacon, but stayed true to the core values of KFC (tasty deep-fried chicken served quickly, at a reasonable price). It was one of the most blogged-about, late-night-referenced, Facebooked schema-breakers ever. Its talk ability was so extreme that it even engendered the follow-up fake schema-breaker, the KFC SkinWich, last month.
But Knox cautions that effective word-of-mouth schema-breaking should not be confused with simple buzz marketing, like a viral video or billboard with content that is remarkable but not directly tied to the brand’s core values. He believes that while a funny commercial can break a schema, if the humor isn’t directly associated with the purpose of the brand then it won’t likely be associated with the brand.
An example of a broken schema in radio is a morning host having his three-year-old son, do Green Bay Packers commentary after every game. Nobody expects a three-year-old to be on the radio, let alone making smart-aleck comments about Brett Favre and Reggie White. And the feature was true to the purpose of the brand, providing good, clean fun in the context of the news of the day. Listeners talked about how much they liked that feature. It truly broke their schema.
*Fletcher Keyes is a long-time morning show personality, radio programmer and new contributor to dmr’s The End Result.