Before coming to grips with the more complex definitions of Framing, it should be understood that Framing is perceptual; in other words, Framing is not about what is said, but how it is said. There are several complex definitions of framing which can be broken down into simpler language:

  • Framing is the relationship between context and information as it determines meaning.
  • Framing is a template or data structure that organizes various pieces of information.

Framing then, is how things are “put.” Or the way words and concepts are presented and “slanted” so that they will produce a wished-for effect. The principal field of human endeavor that comes to mind when discussing Framing, is… Marketing.

A famous example of framing is one that employs different words to describe a car accident. Participants in a study watched a video of a car accident. A question about the speed of the vehicles as they “touched” was framed in two separate ways:

  1. “How fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?”
  2. “How fast were the cars going when they collided, or smashed?”

Participants who were asked the first question typically responded that the cars were going at a lower speed, than participants who were asked the questions when it was framed as a collision or a smash.

Contact or CollideDid the cars contact or collide?

While most people believe that they are constantly making rational decisions and that they are in control of the cognitive and emotional processes that lead to making a decision, this has been proved to be untrue, for at least some of the decisions that are made, especially those which involve buying, selling and marketing.


A good marketing campaign must take into account the attitudes and wishes of those to whom the campaign is directed; advertisers are keenly aware of the benefits that can come from exploiting cognitive biases.

Marketing campaigns which were designed by the tobacco industry to influence consumers to take up smoking, or to quit smoking, have demonstrated strong examples of the knowledge of particular demographics, such as teenagers, women, men, sportspeople, tourists, those on the dating market and the sufferers of airways-related diseases.

The Marlboro Man Advertisement, which first appeared in 1954 in the US is directed at the Macho Man and it infers that strong tanned stockmen and ranchers smoke Marlboro cigarettes. It’s a persuasive advertisement and the verbal lure “Come to Where the Flavour Is” indicates that Marlboro smokers know where to find the good things in life. The ad frames cigarette smoking as a powerful and attractive habit and as a practice that will increase a man’s machismo and sex appeal. A slimmer, quieter man could easily be influenced by this advertisement, as the advertising executives at Marlboro exploit the vulnerabilities of men who feel that they do not appear to be enough of a rugged He-Man.

Macho ManNot enough of a macho man? Maybe stay away from our product..

The 1968 advertisement for Virginia Slims which shows the three-quarter side-on image of a woman with a knowing smile was vilified by feminists who felt that the history of the women’s movement had been mocked. What kind of audience is this advertisement focussed on? Women who are well-off enough to wear fur? Women who are sophisticated and knowing? In any case, the woman who smokes Virginia Slims has Come a Long Way.

That advertisement frames cigarette smoking as progressive, something the intelligent, worldly woman would do. It may attempt to cognitively bias a younger, less well-off, or less well-educated woman to think that by smoking the new slimmer (more sophisticated) Virginia Slims she can layer a glossy patina of worldly-wise glamour onto her life.

The huge financial benefits which accrue to marketing companies who create these advertisements, is derived from careful Framing and Cognitive Biasing techniques which use images and language in precise ways. The consumer is moved away from rational decision making into an irrational area where decision making is made from a consciousness that has been tweaked and manipulated in the zones where it is most susceptible. In both the above cases the potential smokers of Marlboro and Virginia Slims cigarettes stand to gain something indefinable but precious, a stronger Self Image.

Framing Effect – Is It Worth It?

Online marketers know the value of framing; utilizing keywords and taglines that show how a customer will benefit from consuming a product can lead to more conversions.

The L’Oréal campaign for marketing its brand of women’s cosmetics has been famous for its tagline “Because You’re Worth It.” for decades. This tagline frames a woman’s desire to purchase skincare products, especially those from L’Oréal.

Why does a woman buy skincare products from L’Oréal? – Because She’s Worth It. The company L’Oréal has employed many actors and models to speak this line; to have a beautiful, famous woman tell you that you’re worth it adds a degree of impact and permission that could be lacking if this line was spoken by a business woman. Or would it?

The line “Because You’re Worth It” effects issues that women may have about self-esteem and beauty; these are cognitive biases of an extremely personal nature. Thoughts such as: “Am I beautiful?” “How can I become beautiful?” “Do I deserve to be beautiful?” “Should I purchase skincare products?” are influenced by the verbal frame “Because You’re Worth It.” These four words answer all these questions at once and seemingly resolve any residual guilt or doubt about skincare purchases or the right to think about one’s personal appearance.

The L’Oréal advertisement addresses the issue of a woman’s independence, her right to make choices on her own behalf. It soothes away all the difficult questions which touch on a woman’s integrity and her perplexity about her personal appearance. Yet they also issue a challenge: If you don’t buy our product, does it mean you don’t think you’re worth it?

Beauty issues offer up to advertisers the rich vein of desire mixed with insecurity that women feel about their looks. The reason that it is a beautiful model or actress who speaks the words “Because You’re Worth It.” Is because women may want to be successful, but they want to be beautiful, too.

If the aim of marketing is to influence behaviour, L’Oréal have skilfully used the context of fame and beauty to influence women to purchase their skincare products.

The L’Oréal cosmetics campaigns show the Framing Effect put to a very profitable use. Most women are rational enough to know that beauty cannot be bought in a jar and yet, week by week or month by month, this rational opinion is forced aside by the adept use of Framing because – as Beyoncé Knowles or Blake Lively declare – “You’re Worth It.”