What you know changes what you see, what you see changes what you know
Who is saying it matters as much as what is being said. Perhaps it matters even more. Credibility and argument have the same relation as a hammer and a nail. A heavy hammer will drive even a blunt nail into the wall. Likewise, strong credibility will make a weak argument more acceptable.
Credibility is a foundation that is in two parts: sincerity and competence. The more sincere you are as a brand, business, or service, the more opportunities you get. This leads to development of competence and expertise. Perhaps an overstatement but “No publicity is bad publicity” has some grounding. Being famous aids being persuasive. Scale requires both reach and acceptance.
All brand-to-consumer communication is deliberate and motivated. Still, it is consumed and even sought after. The logical and risk-averse consumers always seek more details. Factfulness is persuasive but it loses relevance quickly. For cynics and sceptics, your sincerity and track record come into play.
All persuasive campaigns need repetition. When the earliest converts are those who are unemotional, analytical and objective, then those who follow later feel secure and confident to join the later majority. Framing is about mental structures and stencils which we apply to derive meaning. To change a perspective is reframing. Reframing is a triumph of marketing.The structure of framing often decides the response. The simplest is problem-solution, ‘cause and effect’. Even those who are unaware of a problem, once exposed to it, will pay heed to the solution being offered.
Persuasion is the heart of marketing. But being persuasive is not simply about advertising action. Being persuasive requires effective communication, but even more so, it requires an understanding of the consumer. That understanding translates to insight. The insight is the core of the storytelling. With valid insights and engaging content, you can vie for attention.
Persuasion is fortified with evidence - information, referendum, validation, certification, statistics, testimonials - all enhance acceptance. Emphasizing the benefits is another technique for framing. What they gain motivates people less than the fear of opportunity loss. “Hurry - offer valid till stocks last” can work wonders.
Framing can be unilateral and proactive. You can hypothesize about your rival/competitor and then rebut their argument and advance your own.
Prioritize that benefit which is most desired. Claim it as strongly as you can. Claim to be unique. This is a tactic, but action words can make a big impact - free, quick, easy, proven, guaranteed, certified, crucial, important, statutory, by law - these words open the doors of the mind. With analogies, metaphors, and stories help the messaging become accepted and rewarded with attention. It also simplifies the complex. It can provoke emotion and overcome distraction, diffidence or apprehension. When emotion takes over, the mind is subservient to the heart. Persuasive framing colours its argument via contrast, extrapolation, hyperbole and using triggers. Researchers have identified six essential psychological triggers. Most famously, they were outlined by Professor Robert. B. Cialdini and by Kathleen K. Reardon of the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business. These triggers are liking, reciprocity, social proof, consistency, scarcity and authority.
With that understanding, now let us take a look at Framing : To present arguments in its favour, a brand has to frame its proposition - ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Why buy me?’ - in such a manner that it maintains control, enhances desirability, ensures consistency and strengthens relationships.
Framing is opportunistic. It is fluid. If you know your audience - you will frame persuasively. That’s why opinion polls matter too much to politicians. Moods, self- image, valves and incidents generate biases in the collective conscience.
Framing can be unilateral and proactive. You can hypothesize about your rival/competitor and then rebut their argument and advance your own. Complexity cuts effectiveness. Keep it simple, keep it repetitive, keep it likeable.
When complexity needs to be communicated, the task becomes difficult. Our languages didn’t evolve to explain large-scale complexity. When ‘N’ number of outputs get generated from ‘X’ number of inputs, we struggle to explain the interactions. We also find it difficult to explain probabilistic outcomes. We like simply deterministic cases; any multivariate weighted causation befuddles us.
Therefore, responsible marketers must broadcast the generics and engage for the specifics. They must voice the obvious and then introduce the “not so obvious”. They must take the direct route to indirectness.
Frames are not carried in the mind actively. They are unconscious. They are played out spontaneously, reflexively. Negation is easier to handle. What something is not conveys a finality. But what something is opens further possibilities. We enter the realm of dimensions.
Marketers will think people vote for candidates based on the candidates’ positions on issues. Actually, it is seen that people vote for values rather than issues. Communicating values mattered more than specific policies.
What we infer depends on what we perceive.
Finally let us look at the most difficult task, namely that of ‘Reframing’.
Reframing / Repositioning is not easy or simple. It is not a matter of finding some magic words. Frames are ideas, not slogans. Reframing is more a matter of accessing what we and like-minded consumers already believe unconsciously, making it conscious, and repeating it till it is attached to us as a brand. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. It requires repetition and focus and dedication.
George Lakoff, Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society at the University of California at Berkeley and retired Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics in his book ‘Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate’ says “[Reframing] is about bringing to consciousness the deepest of our beliefs and our modes of understanding. It is about learning to express what we really believe in a way that will allow those who share our beliefs to understand what they most deeply believe and to act on those beliefs. Reframing without a system of communication accomplishes nothing. “
To achieve repositioning requires a communication system. Honesty and integrity; not spin and hyperbole. Those who prefer other brands are also very similar to all others. They are people who understand the world differently and have a different view of what is right for them.
Facts matter enormously, but to be meaningful they must be framed in terms of their importance. If the facts don’t fit the frames in the brain, the frames in the brain stay and the facts are ignored or challenged or belittled.
Marketers will think people vote for candidates based on the candidates’ positions on issues. Actually, it is seen that people vote for values rather than issues. Communicating values mattered more than specific policies. Likewise, a brand’s values matter more than products and services. The values are enduring, the rest keeps changing.
Brilliant campaigns communicate values and use facts symbolically. That’s the recipe - values, connection, authenticity, and trust
Shubhranshu Singh is vice president, marketing - domestic & IB, CVBU, Tata Motors. He writes Simply Speaking, a weekly column on Storyboard18. Views expressed are personal.