How ‘framing’ changes perception

The word ‘framing’ appears in most of the branding briefs we work on today. Whether it’s brand positioning, customer segmentation or messaging – framing is the word. And unlike a lot of marketing buzzwords it’s a good word. Its meaning is clear:

The frame you put around something sets the tone for what’s inside. It gives the viewer important clues about the purpose and value of what’s on display.

In its most overt form, framing is about the way we describe our products.

E.g. Contains 10% Fat versus 90% Lean.

In this way, framing is a facet of Behavioural Economics. Humans are not rational beings – we are very susceptible to biases in our judgement.

But framing is also about visual cues.

Phil Barden makes the point in his book ‘Decoded – The science behind why we buy’. He argues that framing exerts a powerful effect on our implicit ‘sub-conscious’ decision-making. He argues that as customers we don’t notice it happening, but it’s what adds so much value to virtually identical products.

The effect has long been known by FMCG marketers. In the famous Pepsi Challenge campaigns of the 1970s and 80s more people preferred the taste of Pepsi when it was served in a plain white cup. But more preferred the taste of Coca Cola when they could see the can or bottle. The product’s pack/brand/frame actually changed the taste.

So, framing can do more than just enhance the way your goods and services are presented. Framing can actually change your customers’ perception.

To illustrate the point we’ve included some classic visual perception examples from the world of psychology.

In these examples, identical colours or line lengths appear quite different, depending on the context they’re in. They show how framing dramatically shifts our perception.

Maybe the way we shop for drinks and snacks is different. Maybe FMCG goods are different from buying something like a new car or opening a bank account.

Or, perhaps they’re not so different at all.

Perhaps the brand/frame exerts an equally powerful effect whatever you’re buying. You could say ‘context is king’.

We say branding is framing.

When was the last time you assessed the way your product is framed at every touch point in the customer journey?