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Why Framing Messages Motivates Users

How exactly does framing messages motivate users? That is a great question that anyone who is advertising online should understand if they want the maximum benefit from their campaign. Framing, when it comes to design and contact is critical in today’s market.

So what is framing?

From a general definition standpoint, when you are talking about framing communication it all about how you say it and not just what you say. Some people call it “spinning” or “slanting” which is a way to make an issue relevant to the target audience.

Keep in mind framing is never lying, but is just a way of presenting details that influences a person and their opinion.

A great example is a TV commercial about texting and driving which shows a brutal impact from a car crash or the Nationwide Insurance Super Bowl Commercial that featured the ghost of a child. In both cases those messages were much more powerful than a police officer lecturing you on the dangers of texting or preventable accidents.

In both cases both the message and how it was delivered were framed extremely effectively in making their point.

Framing and Web Design

From a design perspective, framing should be a top consideration for a great user experience. Your goal is to use words, images, and presentation to communicate to users in a way that influences their opinion and actions.

You can even take it a step further in regards to content that uses the right mix of metaphors and comparisons to best make points.

Consider two examples of framing:

  • Example 1 – You land on a website for a gym. They have a simple banner that says, “Real Members. Real Fitness. Real Results” Underneath that there is a changing picture that shows different pictures of the inside of the gym while empty. Underneath that it describes the gyms facilities followed by classes.
  • Example 2 – You land on a website for a gym. They have a banner that says, “Are you ready to get in the best shape of your life?” Underneath that is a changing picture that shows regular people in good shape working out hard in close up frames. Under that is another banner that says, “Work Out for Free!” From there you have Hours, link to the new app and then a menu of classes.

Which example is framed better to get people to check them out? Example two grabs your attention with two great banners with good messages and the images that show people achieving fitness goals. Generally speaking both landing pages are giving the same information but the presentation of Example 2 will get a better initial reaction.

How to Effectively Frame Messages

Here are steps you can take to effectively frame messages:

Identify the target audience – Who are you speaking to? Consider your audience and what type of message will appeal to the largest segment of that audience. Remember, your target cannot be everyone because a one-size-fits-all approach tends to miss everyone. So if you look at your general demographic of customers and identify that single men between 40 and 45 make up 52% of your base, you want to speak to them in a manner they find appealing.

Pick a framing style – There are a few different framing styles that can be used. Each has benefits in helping the target engage in certain behaviors. To avoid a mixed message, only use one style in a message.

  • Gain – What will you gain from a particular behavior, or not gain.
  • Loss – What will you lose from a particular behavior, or not lose.
  • Financial benefit – What will be the financial benefit of engaging in a particular behavior.
  • Value benefit – Matching a person’s underlying values to induce them into a specific behavior.

Pick a framing element – Like style, there are certain elements that can be added for additional effect.

  • Urgency – This is very common with things like “last chance” or “best shape of your life” where you use words such as first, last, best, worst, greatest, etc to create a level of urgency in the message.
  • Simplicity – Always a good choice where everyone easily understands the message.
  • Metaphors – This works best with complex or abstract topics to provide better understanding.
  • Visuals – Visuals are very powerful. Along with the content of a visual, placement and sequence can send the right, or wrong message. Consider the gym examples. What do pictures of an empty gym convey other than showing what equipment they have available.

Use powerful statements – There is nothing worse than a weak or unclear statement. You don’t want the target to be confused or uncertain about your message.

  • Empower users – How can taking action give the target more control in their life. Will it make them smarter? Stronger? Free up more time? Don’t just say what something is good for, show people how it changes their life for the better.
  • Tell people what to do – Or at least, tell them what you want them to do. Far too many messages skip the call to action or provide it in an ambiguous way. Be specific and direct! You are sending a message because you want them to do something so direct them to it.
  • Positive language – Avoid negativity and focus on the positive. This is a great cause! This is an amazing product! Talking about how bad the other product is puts the focus on the competitor and not you.
  • Skip the jargon – Some people incorrectly assumes their audience knows the jargon they use. That tends to limits your message to only users that have background on your product or industry. If your target audience is mostly your industry you can use jargon to create a better connection, but for the most part try and use general terms.

Test it, then test it again – The best messages have been tested multiple times and with people outside the group that creates the message. You can’t always assume people will understand something so it takes an outside perspective or focus group to let you know if you have hit, or missed the mark. An added bonus of testing with groups or surveys is that users will tell you want they want to see if you aren’t currently giving it to them allowing you to hone the message.

The Bottom Line

Effectively framing a message is the difference between getting people to do something rather than doing nothing. By understanding why framing messages motivates users, you can approach content and marketing in a way that will provide messages that resonate rather than just inform.

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