the framing effect smartiac article

The Framing Effect: How To Sell Anything To Anyone (With Examples)

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Did you know that you can change the way someone thinks of something just by rearranging a few words in your sentence? You can sell anything to anyone with just a few tweaks in how you present it to them – by using the framing effect. In this article, I will explain how this is used all around us and how you can make use of it to sell anything to anyone.

In this Article:

What Is The Framing Effect?

“The framing effect is the cognitive bias wherein an individual’s choice from a set of options is influenced more by how the information is worded than by the information itself.”


It is a psychological phenomenon where we humans tend to think that something is better or worse than it actually is, just by the way its information is presented to us. A simple example is shown below.

Let’s say you want to sell a car – and your car’s actual sale price is $500,000. You’re willing to sell this car for $475,000. Other than mentioning the price of the car on its own, there are two ways that you can present this information.

The framing effect example of car for sale - smartiac article

You can say “Car for sale – 5% off” or “Car for sale – $25,000 off”. Notice how you’re subconsciously more attracted to the second option which mentions $25,000 off than the 5%. This is because we humans tend to go for the offer that appears to be the best option.

This scenario in specific has a term that is also called ‘the rule of 100’ which is commonly used by marketers. It says that anything less than $100 should be displayed as a percentage. If it’s more than $100, it’s more advantageous to the marketer if it’s displayed as a value rather than a percentage.

For example, if you’re selling a $20 product for $15, you’re more likely to get higher sales if you say “25% discount” than “$5 discount”.

Common Examples Of The Framing Effect

old furniture vintage and rustic furniture - smartiac article

Sometimes marketers rename old furniture as “vintage” or “rustic” furniture to attract the interest of their target customers.

The framing effect example of small room as a cozy room - smartiac article

You can rename small rooms as “cozy” rooms to give a better view. It’s the same small room, but by renaming it, you’re giving it a fresh new perspective.

The framing effect example of disinfectant with germs and germ free example - smartiac article

Disinfectant spray bottles tend to mention that they’re 99% germ-free. But, if they had mentioned this in the other way – 1% germs, I highly doubt anyone would buy them.

The framing effect example of yogurt 20% fat and 80% fat free - smartiac article

Yogurt, which has 20% fat, is more commonly advertised as “80% Fat-Free”. If you saw another cup that mentioned “20% Fat” instead, which one would you go for? – even if you already knew that they both contain the same yogurt.

The framing effect example of glass half full and glass half empty - smartiac article

The glass-half-full and half-empty is a common example used in the world of psychology – perception. This is because even though it’s the same glass of water, when you mention that it is half-full instead of half-empty, you’re seen as someone with a more positive outlook.

Three Types Of Framing Effects

There are three types of framing used by marketers. They are:

  • Attribute Framing
  • Risky Choice Framing
  • Goal Framing

1. Attribute Framing

Attribute framing is the most common type of framing used by marketers when they want to sell any product. In attribute framing, you showcase the information such that the viewer will focus on the specific attributes of the product than the actual level of risk.

Let’s take a look at the tub of yogurt from the examples list – let’s say it contains 20g of fat out of the 100g of yogurt, there are several ways you can display this information. You can say:

  • 20% Fat
  • 80% Fat-Free

Even though both the tubs of yogurt contain the exact same ingredients, aren’t you most attracted to the latter option (80% Fat-Free)? This is because psychologically, we tend to evaluate the quality of a product based on how negatively or positively the attributes are highlighted.

2. Risky Choice Framing: Gain & Loss Frames

This type is much easier to understand with an example.

Imagine your country just experienced a terminal disease outbreak that will kill 1,000 people. Your country has come up with two vaccines (Vaccine X and Vaccine Y) to counter this outbreak. They now have to make the decision to inform the effectiveness of the vaccine to the public. This is what they have done.

Half of the public, Group A, will receive the vaccine information in a Gain Frame.

  • If vaccine X is adopted, 400 lives can be saved. (Sure gain)
  • If vaccine Y is adopted, there is a two-fifth probability that 1,000 people will be saved and a three-fifth chance that no one will be saved. (Risky gamble)

The other half of the public, Group B, will receive the vaccine information in a Loss Frame.

  • If vaccine X is adopted, 600 people will die. (Sure loss)
  • If vaccine Y is adopted, There is a two-fifth probability that nobody will die and a three-fifth chance that 1,000 people will die. (Risky gamble)
The framing effect example of vaccine A and B for gain frame and loss frame - smartiac article

Notice how the information they mention in both cases is the same. They are both informing true information about the exact same vaccination. However, the people in Group A, the people who see the information in the gain frame are more likely to choose the vaccinations. This is because they showcase the information such that the people will focus on “the number of lives saved”.

However, the people who view the information in the loss frame will most likely not go for the vaccines. This is because they have been exposed to the information with the focus on “the number of lives lost”.

3. Goal Framing

Goal framing is mostly used when it involves an action or behavior. In this type of framing, the viewer will be exposed to information such that they’re more inclined to perform the specific act or behavior.

For example, let’s say there is a fact. “When people go for regular health check-ups, they will get to know of any medical conditions from their early stages itself”

We can present this information in two ways:

A: People who have regular health check-ups have an increased chance of finding medical conditions in their early stages (Positive goal frame)

B: People who do not have regular health check-ups have a decreased chance of finding medical conditions in their early stages (Negative goal frame)

The framing effect example of medical checkups for positive goal frame and negative goal frame - smartiac article

Notice, in both presentations, they mention the exact same information. However, people will go for medical check-ups more often when they’re exposed to the information in format B. This is because, in humans, the fear of loss is greater than the happiness that comes from gaining. Therefore, people tend to be more influenced by negative goal frames than positive goal frames.

Due to this, many healthcare corporations make use of the negative goal frame when marketing or advertising their healthcare services.

How To Overcome The Framing Effect

The best way to overcome the framing effect is by exposing yourself to all the different perspectives of viewing the same information. For example, if an employee says “Employee X handed their work in late twice this month”, instead of firing employee X, try to look at how many times they handed their work in on time that month, and encourage them to maintain their track record for handing in work on time.


In conclusion, the framing effect is a major marketing tool that businesses can make use of when they wish to sell their products to their customers. You’re basically rearranging the customers’ perception to make them want your product or service. This marketing trick will be extremely useful when it comes to promoting your products. If used properly, will generate a lot more sales than it normally would.

If you found this article useful, you might want to read the article on the anchoring effect. There, I have explained how people tend to latch onto a product’s initial price when making purchase decisions.

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