Everyone else sees things the same way we do, right? Why wouldn’t they? Our thoughts and ideas are the way the world works. They are blindingly obvious to even the casual observer. When we have the opportunity to explain our position, others will agree with us, right?
Wrong! This is hardly ever true.
A young couple are standing shoulder to shoulder, observing New York City from the top of the Empire State Building. Beth sees pain, injustice, and despair. Bob sees opportunity, purpose, and adventure. Beth sees Bob as an impractical dreamer; he sees her as a negative pessimist.
Each person has a schema of how the world works. A schema, another name for belief system, is a mental structure we use to organize and simplify our knowledge of the world around us. We have schemas about people, other mechanical devices, food, and ourselves…and our own brand.
Not everyone will move in the direction you hoped for even with a strong brand. Even when Coke had the powerful message “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” people sang along but still bought Pepsi. It’s true of the consumers hearing or seeing your ad. It is just as true for your own team members. As a credit union, if you actually are still practicing the people helping people philosophy your credit union was founded on, you do have a great message. But be prepared to smile your way through the negative comments from teammates, managers, volunteers, members, and the community or you’ll never break through the clutter of this busy world.
Look at Amazon and its books. Ninety percent of all books published every year are non-fiction. However, the other ten percent (fiction) make up 90 percent of overall books sales. Fictional characters in movies, novels and TV shows breathe deeply in our culture even when we know they are not real. Every young girl longs for her own Prince Charming. We know the fiction to be untrue, yet we treat it for a time as if it were genuine. We are simultaneously naïve, believing what we are told, and savvy, aware of the deception.
Dr. Maria Konnikova, a strikingly powerful persuasion researcher, says the more a story transports us into its world, the more likely we are to believe it. The sweep of a story overcomes the facts of logic. When we are entertained by a story, we are likely to agree with the beliefs the story implies. In short, a story can reshape your schema. And the best kind of story is the one told by your members to their friends and family.
As a marketer, moving beyond a generic message about your great service and great rates is vital. Even the cozy message about the not-for-profit status of your credit union and volunteer board members isn’t strong enough to break through the schema of the general public. So how can you change someone’s belief about you?
How do others perceive your brand? More importantly, what is the narrative of our industry in general? Understanding these two elements pays huge dividends in constructing your message. Before you become enamored with your knight in shining armor concept, coupled with latest technology, stop and ask yourself, “What are the core schemas at play? How can I disrupt them? How do I change the narrative?” Understanding why a consumer wants to talk about your brand is one of the breakthrough areas of marketing. Get that, make it your quest, and live happily ever after.