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How your audience's decisions are influenced by the way information is presented: The Framing Effect

The Framing Effect 95% of germs

Imagine you're shopping for hand sanitizer at your local supermarket. There are several options, but two brands are on sale at the same price. The only difference is that Bottle A claims to “kill 95% of germs,” whereas Bottle B says: “Only 5% of germs survive.” Which product would you choose?

Framing Theory is about the way we react to information depending on how it’s presented to us. We all make different decisions based on how we perceive what is being said. There's science behind it: Levin et al. conducted an experiment framing the fat content of beef in two ways to see which was more attractive. 96 people were told they’d be given some ground beef to taste. Half of the group were told that the Beef was "75% lean" (positive frame) With the other half being told it was “25% fat” (negative frame) That's right - 75% lean and 25% fat are the exact same thing - just worded differently. They were then asked to rate the quality of the beef out of 7. Even though the product was exactly the same, those presented with a positive frame rated the beef at an average of 5.3 compared to those who had a negative frame rating the beef at 3.7. When we read positive words, they activate our frontal lobe — which controls our memory, judgement, and ability to solve problems. We also experience a boost in our cognitive reasoning and motivation to act toward an outcome we desire. What you can do: Our brains go on autopilot when faced with certain information. We tend to judge numbers in comparison with other numbers. Many of us wouldn’t stop to think that 75% fat-free still means there’s 25% fat. The way you write your headline and the first sentence will frame your audiences' perception, and set the tone for how they will read your copy and remember it. Too many copy/writers start with a negative frame when they use the PAS (Problem Agitate Solution) formula. Although an essential framework it struggles to inspire your reader when used in business messages.

Positive framing should help your audience do something better or highlight what they’ll gain and give them an aspiration. Just imagine the difference you feel if the above email started with the question - "Want to make 2023 your best year?"

When your audience sees ‘what’s in it for them’, they are likely to be intrigued, stop, and pay attention.

Positive Framing

Save time by....

Save money by....

Find out the secrets behind X....

Learn how to do X .....

Get (Benefit) with X

Whereas negative framing helps your customer avoid something

Negative Framing

Don't miss out on.....

Get rid of (problem)

Never do (Problem) again....

Stop wasting money on (Problem)

Overcome your biggest fear of (problem)

Neither is better or worse as a communication strategy but you do need to Consider what your customers want to hear, what you want to be remembered for, and how you want them to feel.

Take for example anti-smoking campaigns. What is more successful in stopping people from smoking - Knowing the facts about smoking or Knowing the benefits of quitting smoking? The former frames smoking as a negative, while the latter frames quitting smoking as a positive.

Or which hand sanitizer are you most likely to buy the one that says it kills 99% of germs or Only 1% of germs survive?

Framing doesn't just stop at content. You can create a positive frame using visual or sensory context, words or imagery. Choose the words you use carefully For instance, a cake sounds healthier when it's called a “muffin” or what about your "milkshake" - is it a “smoothie”? Dried Plums are no longer “Prunes”

Present solutions instead of problems.

NEGATIVE: Don’t use negative framing in your blog copy.POSITIVE: Use positive framing in your blog copy.

NEGATIVE: No deposits after 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m.

POSITIVE: Deposit your cheques and cash between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m

State what your audience wants, not what they don’t want

NEGATIVE: You can’t eat dessert until you finish your dinner

POSITIVE: Finish your dinner then you can eat dessert

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