No time before Valentine's Day? You'll pay more for a gift just to avoid a negative outcome

January 23, 2008

It's a month before Valentine's Day. With time to spare, you consider a number of grand, romantic ways to demonstrate your affection for your sweetheart. But what if it's the night before and you still don't have a gift" How might your perspective change" A timely study by researchers from Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago in the Journal of Consumer Research proves that, when the gift-giving deadline approaches, our perspective shifts from gifts with positive outcomes - something that will knock your sweetheart off his or her feet - to gifts that will simply help us avoid a fight.

"Consumers facing an imminent decision are confronted with the negative possibility of failing to fulfill their purchasing goal," explain Cassie Theriault (Stanford University), Jennifer L. Aaker (University of California, Berkeley), and Ginger L. Pennington (University of Chicago). "When the purchase is still far off in the future, however, consumers are likely to be fairly optimistic about succeeding and less concerned with the possibility of goal failure."

In a series of three experiments, the researchers show that consumers are drawn to products with positive outcomes when there is plenty of time left to make a purchase. In contrast, they are drawn to products that will help prevent negative outcomes when they feel crunched for time.

For example, one experiment had participants consider a trip to Europe (the experiment was conducted one month before the end of summer). Some were asked to consider a last-minute summer vacation, while others were asked to consider a vacation over winter break, several months away. They were then presented with ads from a fictitious Web site, Some ads were framed positively: "Give yourself a memorable vacation!" and "Get the best deal!" Others were framed negatively: "Don't get stuck at home!" and "Don't get ripped off."

Consumers who were planning a last minute trip were willing to pay $178 more for a vacation, on average, when presented with a "negative" ad as opposed to a "positive" ad. Conversely, those who were planning a trip that was still a ways off responded to the positive ads and were willing to pay $165 more for a promotion-framed vacation than a prevention-framed vacation.

"Given that most products can be advertised as a means to promote something positive or as a means to prevent something negative, these findings are highly relevant to advertisers and marketers in their efforts to attract consumers to their products," the researchers explain. "This research offers further understanding of the critical role of anticipated pleasure and pain in decision making."

In addition, the researchers suggest that, because the same amount of time can be framed as either short or long, advertisements for products or services that are inherently prevention-oriented (e.g., insurance) would benefit from limiting the apparent time left before the purchase.
Cassie Theriault, Jennifer L. Aaker, and Ginger L. Pennington, "Time Will Tell: The Distant Appeal of Promotion and Imminent Appeal of Prevention." Journal of Consumer Research: February 2008.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Consumers Articles from Brightsurf:

When consumers trust AI recommendations--or resist them
The key factor in deciding how to incorporate AI recommenders is whether consumers are focused on the functional and practical aspects of a product (its utilitarian value) or on the experiential and sensory aspects of a product (its hedonic value).

Do consumers enjoy events more when commenting on them?
Generating content increases people's enjoyment of positive experiences.

Why consumers think pretty food is healthier
People tend to think that pretty-looking food is healthier (e.g., more nutrients, less fat) and more natural (e.g., purer, less processed) than ugly-looking versions of the same food.

How consumers responded to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for laying out the different threats that consumers face, and that consumers must prepare themselves for a constantly shifting landscape moving forward.

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.

In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.

Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.

Read More: Consumers News and Consumers Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to