Sense-making Theory

I’ve been reading a bit of the always-interesting-but-sometimes-a-bit-dry Giep Franzen recently, specifically around the area of how consumers receive and process advertising. In doing this, I came across ‘sense-making theory’, which I admit to never hearing or reading about before.

“Sense-making theory starts with the recipient seeing the message only in terms of how it crosses his or her life. It assumes that the message has no autonomous power of penetration, but that recipients themselves decide what impact it will have on them. This theory defines information as something which informs, from the recipient’s point-of-view. To some extent, everyone sees their own advertisements and commercials”.

It’s been around a while (since the mid-’80s) and I’m not sure to what extent it still holds water (not sure I entirely agree with commercial messaging having no autonomous power of penetration bit), but it strikes me as being quite prophetic, what with the ‘consumer in control’ world we are now in, facilitated by selection and time-shift technology.

Everyone seeing their own ads is a thought I quite like. (Minority Report, anyone?)

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One Response to “Sense-making Theory”

  1. Lee McEwan Says:

    Giep’s great. His books are often overlooked because they are relatively impenetrable but they contain some absolute gems. I consider him to be one of the most widely read (and objective) marketing authors out there. The Mental World of Brands is a one of a kind (you can tell how good a book is buy the number of people who borrow it and never bring it back – I have lost two copies of TMWofB so far).

    Sense making makes sense to me. We all perceive ads through our own subjective lens of experience. Our environment is reflexive and open to interpretation.

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