Selling Key Moments

Short Term


I outlined the difference between investment behaviour and experience behaviour in a recent article. Encouraging people to change their behaviour now for a long-term gain is similar to selling a savings account, and the further away from today that the benefits can be realised, the harder it becomes to sell the product, or the better the benefits have to be.

Long-term good health is an incredibly good thing to have, so is a pension, and savings, and an earth that is unpolluted and not catastrophically heated, yet how difficult do we find it to alter our behaviour on the basis of those future benefits?

The underlying savings-style message is, “do something today that you would prefer not to, do it regularly from now on, and at some point in the far future, you may enjoy the benefit.”

Notice the use of the word “may” in the line above. Many of the benefits we talk about aren’t guaranteed. We tell people that if they walk 10,000 steps a day they are likely to live longer, that eating more fruit and vegetables will help to prevent them from having a heart attack, but there are no certainties of the benefits. We tell children to study hard and pass exams to enjoy a great career, but there are no guarantees. We encourage people to live environmentally conscious lives, to organize their recycling and minimize their use of plastic. Despite their efforts, they may still experience a heart attack, die young, remain underemployed after college and the oceans may still fill up with unwanted rubbish.

If these were actual financial savings products we were selling, we would have to be far more explicit about the small-print, so that people know that there’s a likelihood they won’t get the benefit they are hoping for at the end. In fact, if these were real financial products, we probably wouldn't put our money anywhere near them!

Even banks, where the returns are more secure, are reluctant to talk about the long-term. They market their products instead on their impact on key moments in the lives of their customers. Your graduation, your first job, marriage, having a baby, your next holiday, your new home… Which means they sell rational long-term financial services by talking about your emotional experiences. Walk into any high street bank and look at the posters, banners and brochures they display. Look at their billboard advertising and watch their television commercials and you’ll see what I mean.

Even the people who are selling investments don’t sell investments!

Which significant emotional moments in the lives of your customers can your product, your service or your campaign have an impact on?