Reframing: A Lesson In Meaning

Reframing is the process of repositioning an idea, often one normally considered a negative, in the prospect's mind.

Finding clear examples can be difficult, however. Other than the bog standard Ronald Reagan "I will not make age an issue of this campaign...I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience" instance, copywriters and sales pros alike can struggle to grasp how reframing might work in their circumstances.

Reframing Clorox TV Commercial Knows What Clean Smells Like

Reframing In A Television Advertisement

Last night I got excited about a TV commercial.

Yes, it was a rare occasion that I was watching television. So in a sense every commercial is interesting to me, because I see few of them.

A “mom” was walking between store aisles of cleaning products. “I know what 'clean' smells like,” she said. "Bleach."

She then continued to caution against nice-smelling but implied ineffective competitors...and to promote the cleaner brand she was being the spokesperson for: one which contained bleach.

And I thought, “Wow!”

She just reframed (well, the script writers did, and good for them) the awful smell of bleach as a huge benefit. 'This is how you tell the cleaning product works. Those without this smell are risky at best and will leave your family in danger of germs.' This logic was far better than that employed in most commercials, and I took instant notice.

How To Use Reframing Effectively

If you've been scratching your head for an example of how to reframe something that is normally thought of as a negative into a huge positive, here it is:

As you would expect, since the advertisement is effective and speaks directly to a specific target market, it has upset some other people. That is a sign of a good ad.

You can read more of the "horrified" reactions here.

As far as I'm concerned, it's simply an example of effective reframing. The off-putting odor of bleach has been reframed as a blunt indicator of cleaning effectiveness. As the viewer, you are free to agree or disagree as to whether that message works on you—but it certainly works as the commercial has been airing for a year now judging from the comment dates.

How could you apply reframing like this in your own marketing? What does your target market fear or desire, and how can a feature be reframed to appeal to that emotion?

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