Tax Day Apocalypse: Psychological Reframing at the IRS?

If you’re reading this in the U.S., I don’t have to go into detail about why today (April 15th) is one of the worst days of the year.

If you’re somewhere else in the world, suffice it to say the Ides of April™ is the deadline to file your paperwork for . . . federal income taxes.

Tough love from Conan...

Tough love from Conan…

Last-minute Larrys (the same guys you find packing the shopping malls on Christmas Eve) scramble to meet the deadline…

Accountants on the verge of tears power through piles of paperwork on Red Bull wings and dreams of a huge payday…

And the average taxpayer celebrates at the few hundred bucks she gets in a refund check (usually right before dropping the money on some useless crap).

There’s something sickening about that last part . . .

Why these people are so happy to get back (a portion of) their own money – money they already earned – is beyond me . . .

It used to be a heated issue.   The withholding aspect of the U.S. income tax system – where the government skims off the top of your paycheck – was a big deal when it was implemented.

Payroll withholding and quarterly tax payments were marketed as temporary measures to fund World War II.  And people were furious about even that.

Yet here we are, 70 years later . . .

And not only are people not pissed off about the withholding thing.  Now, they’re downright thrilled to get a refund check every year . . . despite the fact that it’s their own money.

What changed?

Nothing!  Absolutely nothing, except the mindset of the taxpayers subjected to the laws.

The psychology behind this reveals something valuable.  It’s a marketing “bright spot” from an agency infamous for its incompetence.

This is psychological reframing at its best, folks.

Psychological reframing: or, how most people feel after they get their OWN money back in a refund check

Psychological reframing: or, how most people feel after they get their OWN money back in a refund check…

I’ve wrote about reframing in the past, but couldn’t resist touching on it again because the IRS pulled this off so perfectly.

How did they do this?

First, they focused on a “weakness,” or one of the most unappealing features of the federal income tax: the withholding system.

But instead of “glossing over” this weakness and hoping the taxpayers forget about it, they decided to feature it.  They put it under the microscope of everyone’s view.

Then, once the weakness was out at the open, the IRS reframed that weakness into something that people could swallow.  Not just tolerate, but actively look forward to.

They limited talk about how much money they withheld.  And they shifted their focus to how BIG of a return check you got back.

“Look how much money you got in the mail from the IRS!  Isn’t that amazing?”

The Kool-Aid is strong with this reframe . . . and almost everyone’s drinking it.

Turbo Tax even added an option for you to tweet how much $ you get back for all your online friends to see.  Woohoo!

Hold up.

This can work for your businesses too.

As awesome as you are, your product or service probably isn’t perfect.

And that’s . . . ok.  You’re human.  That shouldn’t stop you from trying to offer your customers as much value as you can.

Which weaknesses are you ignoring right now?  Which undesirable aspects about your business are you hoping your prospects ignore?

Maybe it’s time to stop leaving things up to chance.

If you’re honest with yourself about your business (remove the rose-colored glasses here), it gives you a chance to be proactive about your “weaknesses.”

Dust those weaknesses off and examine them from a new angle: how can those imperfections help add more value than your competitors?

Your product is more expensive than your competitor’s?  Well, your product is more durable and will last longer!

You’re new to the game in your field?  That just means you aren’t bound to boring conventions like the experienced players.

Learning the art of the reframe isn’t hard . . . it just takes practice.

It’s one of my favorite things to when I write ads.  A lot of the time, it’s the initial “weaknesses” that turn into the hook of a great ad…. the unique selling propositions.

And you can do it too.

P.S. How do you use psychological reframing to leverage your “imperfections” into advantages for your business?  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and let me know!