Interpretation Is A Double-Edged Sword

I love the term “schema.” It's used in both digital marketing and marketing psychology. I love it because they have similar applications.

In the digital space, schema is a type of microdata applied to a web page to help search engines parse and interpret its content. It's like giving Google an idea of what the page is about, what it means, and how it should be treated.

Search engines, in turn, use schema data in search results to its users, which is helpful for SEO purposes. By adding schema markup to a web page, we are giving the search engines context and not just content.

In psychology, schema is very similar.

Much like a search engine does, schema is a cognitive framework that helps human beings organize and interpret information. It's our own set of biases, experiences, prejudices, and viewpoints that influence the information we human beings encounter.

Just like its digital counterpart, psychological schema comes in various types, such as object schema, person schema, event schema, etc. They help us understand the world around us. For example, they help us understand:

  • Inanimate objects and how they work.
  • People by the way they look, act, talk, etc.
  • Expected actions and behaviors during events.

And there are plenty more.

While schema can be useful, it can also be hurtful.

These mental frameworks may cause us to focus only on things that confirm our pre-existing beliefs and ideas, and exclude pertinent information that may change our interpretation. As one psychiatric article noted:

“Schemas can contribute to stereotypes and make it difficult to retain new information that does not conform to our established ideas about the world.”

— Kendra Cherry and Steven Gans, MD

While schemas help interpret the information we come across, it also affects the information we choose to give others. Problem is, it may be the wrong information, or it may be the right information but presented in the wrong way.

It can even affect your market research.

It's one of many reasons why hiring an external marketing consultant helps.

You may think you know your market well, but that knowledge, no matter how sophisticated it might be, is almost always unconsciously influenced by your own biases and limited by your personal schema.

You are NOT your market.

Whether it's the data you put behind the page or in front of it, it may not be the data your users want, prefer, or will engage with.

Much less buy from.

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Strategic marketing consultant Michel Fortin