What is a framework?
Behavior change frameworks are the bedrock of applied behavioral science. Designed by behavioral scientists for policy makers and industry leaders, these summaries of cutting- edge decision-making insights are essential for applying research in the public and private spheres. Frameworks distill strategies for influencing human decisions into simple, portable mnemonic devices or acronyms. You might think of them as secret keys that allow us to access complex ideas, which makes it possible for theoretical insights about how people think and act to make their way into the practices of organizations across every industry and environment. To understand more about how these frameworks work in practice, check out our case studies.
Theory, meet practice
TDL is an applied research consultancy. In our work, we leverage the insights of diverse fields—from psychology and economics to machine learning and behavioral data science—to sculpt targeted solutions to nuanced problems.
The Basic Idea
The 4E Framework comes in many different forms, but always follows the same structure. It’s always composed of four strategies or techniques that begin with the letter E.There exist many variations of the 4E framework across diverse fields, as it’s an umbrella framework that encapsulates multiple different perspectives.
In social media marketing, it might read as: educate, empower, entertain and engage.1 In psychiatric rehabilitation, it reads as: exposure, experience, expertise, and embedding.2 No matter what the specific variation of the 4E framework, one important thing to remember is that each technique aims to make an organization more effective in reaching their objectives. The framework acknowledges there is no easy, quick solution to achieving a goal and that there are various methods through which we might tackle a problem.
Let’s have a look at what the 4E framework might look like in three different fields: physiotherapy, social media marketing, and cognitive science.
A 4E framework for psychiatric rehabilitation is exposure, experience, expertise and embedding. Each one has a different specific outcome in mind, but all with the overarching goal of helping individuals become knowledgeable researchers and able psychiatrists.2
- Exposure: like ‘educate’ in the 4E framework of social media marketing, exposure is about providing individuals with access to informative material, which may include giving them pamphlets or letting them know of conferences that might be of interest to them. The goal of exposure is increased knowledge.2
- Experience: this technique allows individuals to get familiar with innovative psychiatric rehabilitation methods. It may include showing them videos that demonstrate the method, and the purpose of experience is to increase their positive attitude towards the method.2
- Expertise: helping individuals develop competency in a particular skill. This could include mentoring new psychiatrists. The goal of expertise is increased ability.2
- Embedding: for psychiatrists to really be proficient at their job, they need to be able to embed innovative techniques or learnings into their everyday practice. One form of embedding is funding, which allows more resources to be brought in. The purpose of embedding is to increase use of a method or tool.2
Social Media Marketing
As mentioned, a 4E framework of social media marketing includes: educate, empower, entertain and engage. Each one attempts to sell consumers on your product or service through a different means.
- Educate: they say knowledge is power, and this technique is all about providing the public with knowledge about your brand or product. It’s not only about giving them facts about it, but also about preempting their questions like ‘why should I buy this product?’ or ‘why should I follow this organization instead of another?’ 1
- Empower: if a company makes consumers feel good, those consumers are likely to continue supporting them. Empowerment could come in the form of portraying models that all have varying looks so all people can relate, or in the form of providing tools that will help them.1 For example, Sephora’s app includes a ‘Community’ feature where people can find advice on how to use various makeup products.
- Entertain: this approach to social media marketing emphasizes what social media was originally intended to do: entertain people.1 People scroll through social media as a reprise for their daily lives so they are looking for fun. One example of a company that uses this approach is Wendy’s, that oftentimes will reply to tweets with funny one-liners.
Engage: social media marketing is often about building a brand, which requires a community that follows it.1 Companies should try and engage people as much as possible to create a loyal client base. One way to engage is through Instagram polls, where consumers answer questions.
One area where the 4E framework is used that we haven’t mentioned yet is in cognitive science. Specifically, it captures a new research paradigm of the mind that departs from functionalism, which supposed that the mind could be talked about in general, abstract terms.3 In the context of the new research paradigm of cognition, the 4E framework is made up of: embodied, embedded, extended, and enactive.3 Each describes a different method through which to try and understand cognitive function.
- Embodied: an approach to cognition that suggests our minds do not exist independently from our biology – our bodies are our minds embodied.3
- Embedded: we must understand cognition as an intertwining of our minds with the physical, social and cultural aspects of the world.3
- Extended: the idea that we unload our cognition onto things external to our minds because it would be too difficult for us to achieve them all by our own mental processes. For example, using a calculator to perform an equation instead of doing some mental math.3
- Enactive: enactive approaches to cognition suggest that the function of our mind cannot be examined solely by looking at what is in our head. It suggests that cognitive functions involve bodily functions as well as environmental influences.4
Since the 4E framework comes in so many varieties, there is no singular source from which it was developed. Instead of being a specific framework, the 4E allows complex strategies — no matter the field — be simplified into four overarching methods. Although it is difficult to trace down the exact roots of the framework, it’s possible to track its evolution in marketing strategies.
The 4E structure follows from another similar method which was predominantly used in marketing: the 4 Ps. The 4 Ps of marketing were considered the essential components of marketing a product or service to a company: the product, the price, the place (where the product will be marketed) and promotion (how it will be advertised).5 The 4 Ps was an idea made popular by advertising professor Neil Borden in the 1950s and was also known as the marketing mix.5
Yet, as time went on, the 4 Ps began to be outdated ways to approach marketing. Senior Talent advisor Brian Fetherstonhaugh came up with the 4Es to modernize the essential factors for marketing: experience, exchange, everyplace and evangelism.6
There are so many products available to people now, thanks to online shopping, that marketing strategies must concentrate on selling the experience, not just the product. It’s about mapping out a customer journey. Fetherstonhaugh also suggested marketing strategies must move away from a focus on price and instead, consider value — what do you need your consumers to exchange for the product (time, money, attention). Since everything is so accessible, there is also no longer one particular place where a product should be advertised — it needs to be in everyplace. Lastly, Fetherstonhaugh put forward evangelism instead of promotion. Evangelism is a more thought-out way of considering promotion, basing strategies on the passion and emotion of a product or brand.6
Tracing the use of 4-component frameworks in marketing helps us to see how it can evolve in other fields as well. Theoretically, the letter in the 4E framework could be substituted for any other letter — it is just an memorable framework that categorizes strategies into four distinct groups.
The 4E framework is useful for synthesizing strategies into four distinct categories, with each category beginning with the letter E. While it might not seem like having the same letter would have that much of an impact on the framework’s efficiency, it’s much easier to remember the different categories that way. An ability to easily recall the framework is vital when we consider that individuals must apply the 4E’s to their work on a constant basis. If we consider the marketing 4E framework outlined by Brian Fetherstonhaugh, it’s clear it is quite a complex means through which to carefully consider every action taken when marketing a product or service.
The fact that the 4E framework can so easily be modified also makes it a useful product. Marketing strategies must evolve with the times, which are rapidly changing thanks to advances made in technology and science.
As you’ve likely realized through the many forms of the 4E framework described in this article, it is a muddy framework with so many variations that it’s easy to get lost. Since the purpose of frameworks is to make complex strategies or phenomena seem simpler, it could be argued that the 4E framework fails to do so. Since the 4 E’s are different depending on what study or article you read, each time, an individual would have to relearn what each strategy captures before they could put it into action.
The theory behind the evolution of the 4Ps to the 4E framework in marketing rests on the idea that we have moved into a people-centric economy. Companies have had to shift from being product-based businesses to people-based businesses if they want to succeed.
An example of a company that has most definitely succeeded is Apple. Apple has been described by Forbes as “what a retail store can, and should be: a place not just to sell things, but where people can connect in a meaningful, personal way.” 7
Let’s consider how Apple started. Originally, they were selling a particular product: computers. But as more and more companies entered the market, Apple needed to ensure they stopped focusing on a specific product and sold the customer experience instead. Consider what it feels like to walk into a well-designed Apple — you get the whole ‘Apple experience’, distinct from other shopping experiences.
How did they evolve from price to exchange? One way to enact exchange is by personalizing products, which makes people feel like they’re getting something more valuable than just another product.8 Apple has offered free engravings on iPods and later Airpod cases, and lets customers customize every aspect of their Apple watch by letting them choose the size, band color, and the band material.
There is almost no need to describe how Apple has ensured to leverage the everyplace marketing strategy. Apple products are everywhere — partially because Apple has tapped into so many different products. One example is their product placement in popular movies and TV shows.
As for evangelism, one strategy Apple used was to offer special classes at Apple stores. The ‘Today at Apple’ program allows consumers to come to the store (or attend a virtual session in the pandemic days!) to develop particular skills or learn to use a product, which allows Apple to foster a sense of community.7 By feeling connected to the community, individuals’ emotions are brought into play and it makes them loyal to Apple and their products.
While some suggest we have moved into a people-centric economy, another term to describe our society is the “passion economy.” This concept encapsulates many of the reasons the 4P framework had to transform into the 4E framework — people need to believe and value a holistic company, not just a particular product, to buy into it. Thus, the power of community has become an incredibly important marketing tool. In this article, our contributor Kaylee Somerville explores the power of online communities and how they can benefit companies.
Marketing and advertisements can have a significant influence on our behavior. It doesn’t only influence our consumer behavior — it can also spark movements or change someone’s style completely. In this article, our contributor Hannah Potts takes a deep dive on the science of advertising and examines why it works so well via social media.
- The 4 E’s for Creating Kick-Ass Social Media Content. (2015, June 25). Katt Stearns Consulting. https://www.kattstearns.com/the-4-es-for-creating-kick-ass-social-media-content/
- The 4E framework. (2021, January 25). Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation. https://cpr.bu.edu/training-and-consultation/4e-framework/
- Schiavio, A., & Van der Schyff, D. (2018). 4E music pedagogy and the principles of self-organization. Behavioral Sciences, 8(8), 72. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs8080072
- Gallagher, S. (2017). Enactivist interventions: Rethinking the mind. Oxford University Press.
- Twin, A. (2021, July 21). The 4 Ps. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/four-ps.asp
- Carter, D. (2021, April 13). The 4Ps Are Out, the 4Es Are In. David Paul Carter. https://www.davidpaulcarter.com/2017/04/24/4ps-4es/
- Danziger, P. N. (2017, May 20). Today At Apple: How Angela Ahrendts Imagined A New Apple Retail Experience. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2017/05/20/today-at-apple-how-angela-ahrendts-imagined-a-new-apple-retail-experience/?sh=81fe84116eb9
- Danziger, P. N. (2017, July 25). Retailers Need New Tools For Marketing: Forget The 4Ps, Embrace The 4Es. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2017/07/25/retailers-need-new-tools-for-marketing-forget-the-4ps-embrace-the-4es/?sh=40cec46d6412\