So, this happened:
Errant elbow in a basketball game, no big deal. It happens. Doc told me I broke one of my nasal bones, but there was no displacement and it was very clean. Ice and a little rest, back to playing in a couple weeks. I never got the black eyes you hear about and the nose itself was hardly bruised after a day or two.
While the whole episode was unexpected, what was even more surprising was the overall reaction I received from friends and coworkers. It was, in general, disappointment! People expected gruesome bruises, gushing blood, and a schnoz pushed to the side of my face. The horror.
Still with me? Okay, good. Here’s how all this relates back to marketing and communications.
- We are visual creatures. Jerome Bruner, a psychologist at NYU, has noted studies that show people remember 80% of what they see compared to 10% and 20% of what they hear and read, respectively. Even after I told people I broke my nose, their reactions to the lack of external signs of damage demonstrated a sense of disappointment, as if without the bruising and displacement, a broken nose just isn’t quite broken.
- Disrupting schemas works both ways. Everyone seemed to have an established idea of what a broken nose should be – bruised, swollen, out of place. When none of these elements existed for my situation, disappointment was again introduced. The fact was that I broke my nose, but the schema of what defines a broken nose was not met. As much as we talk about disrupting schemas to break through the clutter, it’s worth noting that this can be done in an underwhelming way as well.