“You Spent How Much On That?!” The Power Of Framing

“You spent how much on that?!” It‘s a spousal question for the ages. As importantly, it’s also a reminder that value needs to be framed. And if that question is raised, it can be a reminder that sometimes value needs to be reframed too.

Richard Shotton gives the example of a high-end watch tagline, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” He says it gives the buyer an alibi (i.e., “I did it for the grandkids. It’s an investment!”) and it reallocates the massive upfront cost by inferring it should be spread out over decades or even lifetimes.

We have to remember that there’s A. the price itself, and then B. the price compared to something else. Anytime we’re marketing a product, service, or an idea – our success will depend on the pricing making sense in whatever direct comparison it will be made to. Our power is to control or influence the framing of that comparison.

The goal is to be different. If a watch is just a watch, why would you spend so much? You wouldn’t – at least not if the category is watches. However, if the comparison is high-end jewelry or even investments, then the category and worthy comparisons have changed. You spend so much when you believe this Patek Phillippe piece belongs in a category you expect to spend so much on.

Always look for the frame. As consumers, it will tell us the expected categorization the seller is nudging us towards. When it’s our own products or services we want to focus on framing the category we want to be placed in. When a frame is placed correctly it doesn’t just give the pricing it wants, it defines the value the purchaser desires and expects.

Bonus framing: Rory Sutherland has said that a Rolex priced per pleasure from each glance is cheap compared to other things we glance and smile at. Again, the frame changes everything.

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