The powerful concept of brand framing

What if I told that in every decision you take plays the most significant part a factor you never even consider? It’s hidden somewhere down within our subconsciousness, secretly influencing our actions and thinking. I am talking about the broader context. The context of our background, experiences, preferences or opinions. The same applies on the global scale, the billions different variations and webs of decisions tying to each other and connecting the dots even in the most surprising ways.

I like to think of it as me painting a picture as I was growing up. And putting it in a frame formed by everything I learned, observed and experienced since I was born. Around 12 years ago I went to a theatre play in the National Theatre in Prague, one of the most beautiful buildings in the Czech Republic. And I still remember till this day some details and the story. However, if I attended the play in my local town hall, I can guarantee you the experience would be way different. Even if the sound and quality would be the same, the environment would significantly influence my perception and appreciation of the performance.

The same concept is equally applicable in branding and marketing. In fact, the top professionals in the field spend months and years on exploring the deepest motivations and drivers behind our decisions. After which, they are able to frame the marketing and brand experience around those to maximise the success.

Isn’t it positioning then?

Positioning is a great starting point to differentiate yourself and build strong brand associations and credibility among consumers. However, the main issue is that this concept is directly related to your competitors. It doesn’t take into account the mental connections directly between your brand and the consumers.

Again, it dives into the way we see the world. Into the mental frames we formed during our lifetime. It takes the understanding of your audience to a whole new level. And what’s even better – it allows you to control which other brands you will be associated with and compared to.

I’m going to use Ryanair as an example. We all know their position on the market as the low-cost airline. But what about the framing? Maybe you haven’t noticed, but they achieved enormous growth and positive PR in the last couple of years due to the shift in their marketing strategy.

Before, they were like any other airline, being serious (aka boring) and purely focused on promoting the cheap tickets. But what they decided to do instead, they fully embraced the core value of the company and started framing themselves as the “funky biz who always delivers the cheapest transport and loves to make fun of itself for being crap in other non-essential areas”. Okay, this might be a bit over the edge but what happened is that Ryanair acknowledged that they are not the best airline or that people won’t get free services on board. But people can be absolutely sure they will get from A to B for the cheapest price possible. And people absolutely love it, because relate to it. I recommend you to go check out Ryanair’s social, their memes are hilarious.

So what Ryanair did, they framed themselves as the rebel (=utter disruptor) in the airline industry. Which completely goes hand in hand with their positioning.

Framing in advertising

Framing isn’t highly applicable only on macro brand level. But also within campaigns and individual ads.

For example:

Would you buy a tooth paste that’s recommended by 9/10 dentists… Or would you buy tooth paste that’s NOT recommended by 1 dentist out of ten?

Both questions mean the same, but the information is framed differently. In the first scenario, the emphasis is on the majority agreeing, creating a sense of trust and reliability. Consumers are more likely to perceive the toothpaste positively and feel confident in their decision to purchase it. On the other hand, in the second scenario, the focus is on the minority, which will naturally raise question and doubts in our brains on the product’s effectiveness.

The core principle: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

The first soda instinctively draws comparisons to other low-sugar or diet beverages. This framing positions the product alongside healthier alternatives, appealing to health-conscious consumers actively seeking to reduce sugar intake. The term “sugar-free” conveys a positive impact on one’s health, making it an attractive choice.

On the other hand, the soda labeled “only 2% sugar” sparks comparisons to regular, sugary sodas. Placing the product against traditional, full-sugar options, appealing to consumers who are less concerned about sugar content or who prefer the classic soda taste. In this context, it signifies a minimal impact on health, while still providing the familiar taste of traditional sodas. Which is a completely different audience.

So when you are creating messaging for your ads, remember that each information you give can be perceived by two people in two completely different ways. It’s absolutely crucial to not only understand your customers goals, but also understand what they are scared of. Only they you will be able to frame your brand and entire strategy in the most effective way. And you will influence perceptions and their purchasing behaviour.

Written by

Jan Minarik

A specialist in brand-centric and creative solutions to improve brands’ credibility and design unified customer experience across all promotional platforms.

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