The Overton window is a political concept that discusses how public perception of certain policies can adjust over time, depending on changes in the political landscape. So — how can it be used to improve the performance of your business?
Of course, the leaders in any field will tell you to look beyond the standard approaches and practices of your own sector to find new and exciting ways to grow.
In this article, we reveal how companies can ‘borrow’ from the world of politics and sociology to make huge, positive changes to their brand.
The Overton Window represents just one way to transform your organization. Many entrepreneurs choose to pursue further qualifications, such as a university degree, to broaden their understanding of business development and to build a strong arsenal of these techniques.
It is possible to do this remotely without having to put any of your duties and responsibilities on hold. For example, Aston University offers a masters in business & management online. The program will help you to develop an understanding of marketing and branding concepts and teach you how to create your own successful strategies.
The Overton Window
The Overton Window concept was named after policy analyst Joseph Overton. Overton theorized that any idea around which a politician wished to form a policy would command greater or lesser levels of popularity with the general public depending on the status quo of the time.
Another political commentator, Joshua Treviño, later proposed that there were six ‘degrees’ of acceptance when it came to the way the general public saw a certain political policy. These degrees are:
Above, the Overton Window is represented by the words in bold. ‘Acceptable’ sits at the very edge, then, as we move inwards, ideas are seen as ‘sensible’, then ‘popular — right at the heart of the window.
Depending on the status quo, the actions of previous politicians, and the current social climate, a particular proposed policy may shift up and down this scale in terms of public opinion.
Of course, once an idea is seen to command sufficient ‘popularity’, it may well be confirmed as a ‘policy’.
How can I employ the Overton Window in my business?
The most exciting and creative place to be within the range of the Overton Window is between ‘radical’ and ‘acceptable’.
This is because the current status quo will not last — and it is always desirable to be on the side of the changemakers when the idea you are pursuing shifts to the ‘center’ of the window.
In the field of idea generation, the Overton Window is a great way to visualize how a new product line or design concept is likely to be received by your customer base.
A great way to employ this approach is by taking stock of the current status quo and considering how much further you may be able to push a concept or idea until it is considered too ‘radical’. This approach can be supported using opinion polls and test audiences.
Do not be concerned if your idea receives a few rejections — in fact, this is a good sign that your idea is balancing on the border between ‘acceptable’ and ‘radical’. If all responses are wholly positive, you may be able to push things further.
Remember, however, that the sweet spot is usually where most of any sample responds positively to an idea — so try not to alienate your audience by aiming too far into the ‘radical’ zone.
In spring 2022, CEO Today published an article about a selection of brands they considered to have ‘radical’ business practices, cementing those companies as leaders within their respective industries. This just goes to show that pushing things that little bit further can have some very exciting results.
A few years ago, hybrid working would be seen by many to be a radical concept — let alone allowing your employees to work on a remote basis indefinitely. However, the COVID-19 pandemic totally upended the status quo, making this approach far more acceptable than ever before.
Other concepts in workplace policy that would have been considered almost unthinkable in the past include mental health days, four-day working weeks, and even menstrual leave.
Of course, it is important to ensure that you are not implementing a radical workplace policy for the sake of it — there must first be a demand for change of some kind.
However, how far you go with that change should be dictated by the idea’s perceived position within the Overton Window associated with your business’s community of stakeholders, directors, managers, and employees.
Finding your way onto the fence between ‘radical’ and ‘acceptable’ in the Overton Window when it comes to brand representation can make a huge difference to the performance of your company as a whole.
It can attract new, proactive customers who are excited to see something new and different, potentially adding a whole new demographic to your audience. It may also attract a greater level of media attention — as the unusual and the extreme are always highly appealing to news outlets.
The approach may present a strong sense of dynamism in general. However, it can be very risky to make huge changes to the way in which your brand is represented. Take care not to alienate too many of your existing customers or investors, as this can take a huge toll on your performance.
Which TV ads have really caught your attention? What about billboards? PR stunts? They are likely new, inventive, envelope-pushing campaigns, rather than a rehashed version of something you have seen before.
When revising your own company’s marketing strategy, it may well be a good idea to take inspiration from things that have come before — as this will give you a foothold in the ‘acceptable’ portion of the window.
However, taking a creative approach and turning that acceptable campaign on its head may be enough to see your brand teetering on the edge of ‘radical — and that is just where you want to be. It is where you will receive the most social media mentions and attract the most Google searches into what you are about.
The Overton Window offers a way of promoting creativity and a fresh perspective on almost every aspect of your business’s performance. If it is implemented with care, it has the potential to help you yield very exciting results.
Leave a Reply