The Framing Effect

Photography by Jonnavithula Chandan (Instagram: chandan_jonnavithula)

Easy. Quick. Comfortable. It’s human nature to prefer the comfort zone over risk, especially in a place like India, where the majority lies under the label of being risk-averse. This risk-averse character influences our personality and thus affects our choice. Similarly, when we talk about perceptions, they are usually a result of experiences we extracted from our surroundings. Easy? And while building upon these perceptions, we tend to use shortcuts whenever we come across a similar situation that eventually ends up in the formation of assumptions rather than facts.

The framing effect is one of the mental blocks that is fed by shortcuts. These shortcuts are based on the positive or negative installation of facts. For instance, you ask a random person if they want to have ten out of fifteen candies, the answer will probably be yes while making the person feel happy. But you ask another person if they want five fewer candies from fifteen, the answers might surprise you. Anywise, whatsoever the answer might be, the second person won’t feel as thankful as the first one. In both situations, you offer ten candies, but the way you put it makes the difference.

The very evident example here could be of media. Not imposing that media misguides people, but the way it covers the news leaves an impact on the viewers. It has the power to put the same idea in a way that even you start to question if it was in the favor or opposition of your school of thought.

In terms of a product or service, assume you hear someone singing and playing guitar on your way, you might not pay attention. But if the same person is playing at a concert, you will even pay to listen to music. The value subsequently varies at the pathway versus at the concert, no matter even if the music is the same.

Here’s an experiment that explains the impact of the framing effect on people.

The framing effect experiment

So, when we come to the business world, how is the framing effect being used?

Marketing. Instead of saying that the framing effect’s major role lies in marketing, some use it as a synonym for marketing. It’s not about what is being said but how it is said.


A takeaway store is offering free delivery or a 10% discount on the pick up of meals.


A takeaway store is charging 10% extra on delivery or no discount on pick up.

What sounds more appealing?

The first one. Many marketers might fall on the other side while walking on the line between fair and false advertising, which has to be taken care of by stating the ad content carefully.

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To give it structure, we can come down to two forms of framing — positive and negative. Here, people base their purchase decisions on gain or loss.

Positive Framing — when the seller positively showcases facts to make customers feel assured and satisfied. A customer is less likely to take risks in a positive framing scenario. It highlights growth and progress. Words like ‘save’, ‘grab’, ‘discount’, etc. all lie under positive framing.

Example: Writing 80% fat-free on a pack of the yogurt than mentioning that it contains 20% fat.

The positive framing provides a ‘relief’ effect, and the customer assumes the product to be a better option as compared to its competitors.

Negative Framing- when the seller sends out information in the form of warnings or fear of loss. The concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) lies perfectly here. Such fear is used, and a solution for the same is offered that creates an urgency in the minds of people. Customers are more likely to take risks to be in a secure position and to defend against threats.

Example: Ads for Anti-aging creams.

However, when we consider the impact of both, it’s a race between satisfaction and fear. The positive framing effect is the one that usually weighs more. People get happy with a positive assurance and are likely to repeat the purchase of the same. The use of positive words attracts the customers towards the solutions as compared to threats or warnings that might bring out repulsive behavior. Still, it will vary from product to product.

Write down both and identify which one works better for you. Make sure your audience can visualize the gains or losses from your framing.




Writer | Artist | Marketer

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Akshita Lomsh

Akshita Lomsh

Writer | Artist | Marketer

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