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Look to the Future, Scrooge

December 3, 2008  

As the economy sags, consumers are tightening their purse strings. And that's not good for business. This holiday season, the average customer is looking more and more like Scrooge. What's a marketer to do? Recent research says, it's time to get folks to look to the future.

In a recent study, researchers tested two different levels of advertising for a luxury product on consumers who happened to exhibit "hyperopic behavior"—or a marked aversion to indulgence ("I can't possibly justify spending money on that!").

These consumers were randomly shown one of two ads for a luxury product. The first ad focused on specific features of the product, offering practical descriptions of its immediate benefits. The second ad focused on more abstract benefits of the product, using terms such as "make the investment worthwhile," and speaking of its "immeasurable" value, while focusing on its long-term benefits.

The consumers who viewed the second ad were far more willing to reconsider their aversion to the luxury purchase. The researchers concluded that Scrooge-like consumers' refusal to buy high-end products might be overcome by promoting luxury goods in terms of their more lasting charms.

Words to market by: Rethink your pricier products' value for consumers over time, then focus your sales pitch on the future, not just on immediate indulgence this holiday season.

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