The Marketing Bureau

Specialist Marketing & Communications Resourecs



Frankly, It's All In Your Head

First Published on
OK. Time to clear your mind and consider some findings from Tremor, a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble that focuses on word-of-mouth (WOM). Tremor is populated by cognitive scientists whose job is to study the brain, then apply their knowledge to marketing.

Some sample Tremor tips:

The brain isn't actually wired to "think." It's designed to save most of its processing for a crisis—like, say, getting attacked by a tiger.

The brain organizes itself with "schemas" (structured groupings of preconceived ideas) that determine how we understand the world, culture, advertising, everything.

So, how might a marketer apply such insights to stirring up WOM?

Well, consider this: In 100 percent of WOM cases, nonstop talk about a brand/effort occurs because a schema has been broken or blended. So says Steve Knox, Tremor CEO. A broken or blended schema throws the brain for a loop, Knox says—and when the brain is confused, it has to talk about it. Cool!

Consumers talk about brands when we disrupt a schema, Knox explains. They talk when marketers give them a surprise that does not fit inside their mental model.

Quick example: The launch of the Hummer. People described it as "a cross between a tank and a truck" because they had no other frame of reference for it. When people compare your product to others in this way, that means the WOM has formed a new schema! And the cool thing about being the first to create a schema is that you own it thereafter. Now, that's branding.

Quick suggestion for marketers: Take a look at the cultural expectations surrounding your products. Which schemas might you disrupt? Start small, and see where the resultant WOM takes you.

The Po!nt: Try a brain-twister. Stretch your customers' expectations little by little, doing something refreshing while maintaining a sense of the familiar. You may stir up some schema-based buzz!


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