"In psychologist parlance, a schema is a mental structure that represents some aspect of the world. Examples of schemata include stereotypes (yuppies/rednecks), social roles (mom/dad), and long-held beliefs (a penny saved is a penny earned).
Schemata are useful for marketing because they help you telegraph an idea. You can say a lot quickly by linking your product to something customers already know well. For example, the movie Alien was originally pitched as "Jaws on a spaceship." Investors familiar with the shark movie schema immediately understood how the new film would work. Anti-virus software vendors rely on a stethoscope to quickly convey their product benefits: diagnosis, detection, and health for your PC.
By the same token, you can break through the clutter by challenging a schema. The sight of senior citizens playing power volleyball, for example, commands your attention because it goes against your schema of how elderly people behave.
So next time you need to communicate an idea, try building upon - or going dramatically against - an established schema.
Just for Fun
Spectacularly poor ad placement
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In a Word
"Reply" vs. "Respond"
"Please reply within 15 days." Or, "Please respond within 15 days." Which is better?
It depends on the effect you're going for. Reply is preferable when you want to reassure readers that they are under no obligation. Respond conveys a slight sense of obligation. It would be mildly rude to ignore your request.
Respond also conveys a sense of greater involvement. Which is why you should promise to respond to a complaint or question, not just reply.
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Lively Writing, on Time and on Target
When you message needs to engage and persuade, be sure to approach it from the Write Angle. Udi Shorr writes marketing and sales-training presentations for live audiences, video, print, and the Web. You benefit from years of marketing experience with Fortune 500 clients.