Our brand is better than their brand

New study shows that 'positive framing' makes consumers less biased

Our brand is better than their brand.
Their brand is worse than our brand.

While these messages seem only subtly unlike, they cause consumers to focus on different pieces of product information, according to a new study in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. That's because one employs "positive framing" focusing on the superiority of one brand over another while the other highlights how the competitor's product is not as good , or "negative framing."

"Developing a richer, more complete understanding of the moderating role of message framing is important, not only in the comparative ad domain, but also in the broader context of information processing," explain Anne Roggeveen (Babson College), Dhruv Grewal (Babson College), and Gerry Gotlieb (Western Kentucky University). "We tested the moderating impact of framing in a variety of situations and find results which can consistently be explained by the fact that the positive frame engenders more thorough analysis of message cues than negative frames."

The researchers found that positive framing causes consumers to look carefully at information contained in the ad. When a message is framed negatively, consumers are biased by extrinsic cues, such as the retailer's reputation, but often fail to consider more objective measures such as price. Store brands sold by retailers with a weak reputation should therefore avoid negatively framed ads, as this will summon risk perceptions.

"When a comparative ad is negatively framed it focuses on the inferiority of the competitor's brand and encourages consumers to think about potential losses they will incur from using the competitor's brand," explain the authors. "In contrast, when a comparative ad is positively framed it focuses on the superiority of the sponsor and encourages consumers to think about their potential gains."


Anne Roggeveen, Dhruv Grewal, and Gerry Gotlieb. "Does the Frame of a Comparative Ad Moderate the Effectiveness of Extrinsic Information Cues" Journal of Consumer Research. June 2006.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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