Knowing the brain’s verbal triggers gives marketers a pointed advantage when it comes to phrasing their sales pitches. It’s called the framing effect, or, in other words, the way phrasing influences our choices or even perceptions of events subconsciously.

How will this help your conversion rates? That’s up to you to determine in the way you carefully consider and select the words you use in your copy, but here are the facts to remember as you begin.

The Framing Effect Study

Something as minor as word choice can alter one’s perception of an event and even influence his or her memory. For example, in a study of the framing effect, researchers showed participants footage of a single accident involving two cars. They were asked a series of questions, including, “How fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?”

The word “contacted” was replaced by other words: “hit,” “bumped,” “collided,” and “smashed.” Otherwise, the question remained the same and was posed to different participants. The speed estimates varied according to the word used. The more euphemized words got lower estimates, while the harsher, more violent words received estimates of higher speeds.

Additionally, after a period of seven days, the same participants were asked if there was broken glass at the scene of the recorded accident. Those who had received the euphemized words said that there wasn’t, which was correct, while those who had received the harsher words—”collided” and “smashed”—remembered erroneously that there had been broken glass at the scene.

This should impress as well as worry you. How trustworthy is your memory and how you are influenced every day in the advertisements you see?

Loss Aversion

Put simply, according to researchers Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, it’s human nature to hurt more from loss than to feel pleasure from gain. The hurt will outweigh the pleasure. For example, it will hurt more to lose $100 at a blackjack table than it will feel good to win $100, allegedly.

It’s using this idea, that marketers justify using trial periods and rebates. Once a customer has incorporated a product or service into their lifestyles, they will be less likely to want to lose it.

Apply it to Your Marketing Strategy

A/B testing will be your ally as you seek to find the perfect phrasing for your calls-to-action. Consider the framing effect of these two CTAs, for example:

  • “Drastic 50% discount on select items—today only!” (note the loss aversion element)
  • “15% off orders over $50”

Think of your CTA buttons: “Get Free eBook” vs. “Click here.”

Testing, Testing, Testing

Now that you’re an expert psychologist, tackle that new marketing content with new intent, remembering how your word choice will influence the psychology of your readers. Share your thoughts in the comments!


Gagnon, John. “2 Mindhacks to Keep Marketers From Losing Out.” (January 27, 2015.)