Welcome to the third in a series of articles explaining the biases, nudges and heuristics influencing behaviour and changing the way we think as marketers and this week's focus is the framing effect.

So, what is Behavioural Economics?

The field of behavioural economics blends elements of psychology and economics, and provides some valuable insights into why individuals are not behaving or making decisions in their own best interests.

Every week, we’ll be getting into the nitty gritty of a bias, nudge or heuristic, giving you a bit of insight into what it is and how it’s been applied. This week, it’s the framing effect.

What is the framing effect?

How something is framed e.g. described, affects our perception of value

So, what does that mean?

The framing effect explains how we alter our decisions depending on how information is presented to us. We’ll react in a completely different way when the same choice is presented to us in the context of a loss or a gain.

Classic example of the framing effect...

Probably the most common use of the framing effect is within food advertising. The food industry know that people like to keep an eye on their health and know exactly what they’re putting in their bodies. And fast food chains in particular have taken advantage of this.

How McDonalds used framing...

This 1991 advertisement from McDonalds is a perfect example of how framing something in a certain way can affect the way we look at it. By labelling the McLean Deluxe burger as “91% fat free” rather than “9% fat”, it frames the burger as a healthy product.

McDonalds knew that putting a positive spin on their product and opting for the “glass half full” approach would be a lot more popular with people. Let’s face it, “fat-free” sounds a lot more appealing than “contains fat” but either way you frame it, it isn’t all that healthy.

The Framing Effect, McDonalds McLean Deluxe burger, 1991
Advertisement for McDonalds' McLean Deluxe burger, 1991

River Island use framing for change…

River Island took on confidence, equality and empowerment in their 2018 “Labels are for clothes” campaign by using the framing effect.

Pairing up with international anti-bullying charity, Ditch the Label, the campaign reframed the way people think of clothing and who can wear what. It featured a variety of genders, races and ages decked in River Island’s latest clothes, with statements like “Do not stereotype”, “100% gender free” and “Do not shrink” across print and TV ads.

This also created the halo effect, which is similar to the framing effect. Tackling such an important issue and showing their openness and acceptance, River Island presented themselves in a positive, inspiring light. And this will no doubt work in their favour to build their popularity.

River Island campaign, Labels Are For Clothes, The Framing Effect
Advertisement from River Island's "Labels Are For Clothes" campaign, 2018


Behavioural Economics has been around since the 60s and their value and relevance in explaining why we make the “mistakes” or choices we make as consumers is compelling.

As an agency, influencing behaviours is core to what we do and applying Behavioural Economics to marketing communications is a natural progression. See how we used the framing effect in our Sharps Transformation TV campaign case study.

If you are interested in understanding more about how we do this get in touch now.

Be sure to check out next week’s post when we’ll delve into another bias or heuristic. And read last week’s Commitment bias post here.

By Melissa McPhillips