Today’s experiment was written up with the help of Alain Samson, author of the excellent Consumed blog at Psychology Today. Thanks Alain!
The Experiment: “Save $1!” – sounds good. But does “get $1 off” sound better to you? The psychological difference between the two – since there is, of course, no financial difference – is the basis of an area of behavioural study known as “regulatory focus”.
It’s human nature to approach pleasure and avoid pain. But people follow this nature in different ways. They are either promotion (approach) focussed or prevention (avoidance) focussed. Think of two tightrope walkers crossing a ravine. The prevention focussed walker concentrates on the rope and not falling off. The promotion focussed walker concentrates on reaching the goal.
This focus can change, and is reflected in people’s different motivations for action, and in the different marketing strategies they respond to. For example, “get fit” might motivate a promotion-focussed person more than “stay healthy”.
We ran an experiment to test how regulatory focus affected the success of promotional offers in shopping. It was inspired by a classic behavioural economics experiment by Suresh Ramanathan and Sanjay Dhar, exploring whether promotions tailored to regulatory focus would make people buy more or less. We also tried to change people’s regulatory focus by changing their emotion, showing some a scary video (to induce prevention focus), some a funny video (to create promotion focus), and some no clip at all.
What did we discover? Continue reading