A Texas brewery recently unveiled a 99-pack of beer for $99. It’s seven feet long and 15,000 calories worth of brew. It’s been on Newsday, CBS, Deadspin, Business Insider…you name it. And though it’s clearly a (smart) ploy for some PR, there’s a deep seated psychological trick at play here. It’s called schema disruption.
A mental schema is a structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas that helps our brains to conserve energy for crisis situations. Think of it like this – when you get in your car every morning, you don’t have to strongly focus on driving on the right side of the road. A mental schema already exists based on previous experiences so we don’t have to waste precious brain power on little thoughts and tasks like this. We don’t have infinite mental energy, so the brain is efficiently built to conserve power in this way.
When you walk into the local convenience store to pick up some brew dog for your crazy ass Friday night date with Netflix, and you meander over to the cooler area, your mind quickly sifts through all the built up experiences and visuals from your life to feed you expectations on what you’re going to see: 6- and 12-packs, maybe some cases of 30 and even a few 40s. So, when you come across a fricken’ 7-foot long case of almost 100 beers, your mind stands at full attention, essentially trying to figure out WTF is going on here.
That’s the power of PR stunts that take us out of the everyday experience of everyday things.
(If anyone out there actually has psychology skills beyond Wikipedia readings – like me – feel free to correct me, clarify, or add.)