$3 versus 300 penniesDavis and Knowles (1999) demonstrated the DTR technique by selling note cards door-to-door for a local charity. Here are two different strategies they used:
- In the 'normal' condition they told people it was $3 for 8 cards. Using this they made sales at 40% of households.
- In the DTR condition they first told people it was 300 pennies for 8 cards, immediately followed by: "...which is a bargain!" This form of words encouraged 80% of households to buy the cards.
DTR works by first disrupting routine thought processes. The pitch is deliberately made hard to think about. In this case people's attention is distracted while they try to process this cryptic '300 pennies' and why anyone would mention the price in pennies rather than dollars.
Hot on the heels of the disrupt, in comes the reframe: in this case the words: "It's a bargain!" While people are distracted by the price in pennies (for a second or two anyway), they are more likely to just accept the suggestion that the cards are a bargain.
The disruption only works for a second; the reframe has to come immediately, before people's critical faculties come back online.
Disrupt-then-reframe has been shown to be the most effective way to persuade people quickly. You disrupt the normal thought process, make your pitch deliberately hard to think about, and then reframe the issue so the earlier claim seems better than it is. $3 compared to 300 pennies is pretty simplistic and crude and yet ... it worked, apparently.
This is how the issue under a lot of issues can get immediately reframed by a self-styled polemicist who says something weird in public and immediately jumps in a day or so after bloggers and journalists react to things and presents a much more boring, mundane, tedious form of the original sentiment. Some people even managed to conclude that people who do things like that are just idiots and that people who react that way are silly. The disruption appears and then amidst the reaction of people who don't buy the sell, the reframe is set up quickly enough that those who are willing to buy the less incendiary version of the same idea are willing to say that this is, in fact, a bargain. Those people are then able to say that if we just knew the heart of the person who pulled the disruption and then reframed it we'd see that the person is a neat, wonderful person. "Immediately" doesn't have to be really immediately. On the internet it merely needs to wait long enough for bloggers and the like to get it trending.