As humans, we have common biases that lead to our judgement and decisions, which are often irrational. Psychologists refer to these inherent biases that play a role in influencing our thinking as cognitive biases.
Let’s say you and I are working on a project together. I’m writing the report and you’re doing the research. The report needs to be 12 pages long and we’re currently at page 6. Let’s also say that you don’t know what page we’re at since I’m the one writing. You ask me how much we still have left to do because you’re getting tired and are thinking of taking a break.
Scenario 1) I tell you not to worry because ‘we’re halfway done!’. You decide to take some rest.
Scenario 2) I tell you that ‘we’ve only done half and we still have the entire other half left to finish!’. You decide to rest later and we keep working hard.
In both cases, the amount that the report was completed was the same. However, the way I framed the situation, the way I reacted, the context and tone in which I phrased my response, altered your decision and influenced your behavior to take some rest.
This is an example of a specific cognitive bias – in which an individual reacts differently to a particular situation depending on whether it is conveyed in a positive or negative tone. In brand marketing, our brands have the ability to frame a situation and influence the judgement, reaction, and behavior of our consumers by leveraging this particular cognitive bias. This cognitive bias is known as The Framing Effect.
The Framing Effect
In a classic experiment conducted by Daniel Kahneman and his research partner Amos Tversky, participants in a study were given the choice between two different treatment solutions for 600 individuals affected by a made-up life-threatening disease.
- Treatment 1) Saves 200 people’s life
- Treatment 2) 1/3 chance of saving all 600 people and a 2/3 chance of saving no one
72% chose Treatment 1.
Another group of participants were then offered the same scenario, but this time the scenario was worded differently.
- Treatment 1) 400 people die
- Treatment 2) 1/3 chance no one will die and a 2/3 chance that all 600 will die
78% chose Treatment 2.
The Framing Effect and Your Brand Strategy
In the above experiment, the way the options were presented influenced the participant’s choices. The first option was wrapped in a positive frame (save lives) and the second offer was wrapped in a negative frame (lose lives).
Key Insight: Creating a positive frame of your brand elicits positive feelings and results in risk taking and proactive behavior. Creating a negative frame leads to negative feelings and results in risk-aversion and reactive behavior. And on a side note, both are amplified by TIME and PRESSURE.
Two different brand’s targeting the same health-conscious consumer, have both of their products sitting side-by-side on a shelf in a supermarket. Brand A has the label “Only 1% Fat” and Brand B has the label “99% Fat-Free”. One is focusing on the positive, the other is focusing on the negative. The human brain registers two concepts – ’99’ is greater than ‘1’, and ‘free’ is better than ‘only’. Which do you think the consumer will more likely react towards?
A competitive strategy that is fairly common, especially in brand advertising strategy, is when a company presents their own brand in a positive frame and their competitor’s brand in a negative frame – and as an added tactic, implements the pressure of a time-sensitive offer and probes for a quicker decision. Time-pressure prevents the individual from analyzing and leaning towards a rational thought-process even further, when in the midst of making a decision.
The type of framing you employ in your strategy depends on your brand’s goals and what you are looking to achieve. The way you frame the words on your website for example, will influence the way your customer will react with your brand online. It’s all about the context in which information is presented to your consumer. The context is what moulds the assumptions and perceptions about your brand.
Also keep in mind that the next time you hear an organization request you to spend a $1/day, you’ll know that they’re applying the framing effect. Breaking down numbers is another effective way in using this tactic. When you break down your cost, the frame that you set is more appealing to your consumer. Breaking down a cost for your product or service to the point of pennies and dollars, is more attractive than asking for larger chunks of money. $1/day sounds more feasible than $30/month. It can also work in the opposite way. Buying a printer for $300 sounds like a large investment. However, when it is compared to the total yearly cost of weekly printing at Staples at about $10/week ($500/year), buying that printer sounds like a good deal. Infomercials leverage this technique all the time. “3 easy payments of $29.95” where they cancel the 3rd payment for you because you’re special so it’s only “2 easy payments of $29.95”, is a lot more strategically attractive than them telling you to “buy this product for $60”.
Through the use of strategic wording in all of our marketing messages, strategic images in our advertising and packaging, and an overall effective understanding of our consumer’s psychology, we can influence how consumers think about our marketing message and our brand in general. Thus, effectively building a powerful, long-lasting, and leading brand. That is what Brand Marketing Psychology is all about.