Back to resources

Photograph of two sunbeds on a white sandy beach with blue skies

Investment or experience

“Investment behaviour” describes our behaviour when we are working for something in the future. It’s when we are prepared to sacrifice something now, such as time, money or effort, in exchange for benefits we can have in the future. For example, putting money in a pension, for the benefit of a more comfortable retirement (which may still be several decades away), rather than enjoying the money now, is obvious investment behaviour.

Less obvious investment behaviours include building a career, studying for a degree, working on a DIY project at home. In investment behaviour, we offset the pleasure we could have now to make things better in the future. The word cloud below describes aspects of investment behaviour.

“Experience behaviour” is the opposite to investment behaviour and is about the here and now. Experience behaviour is enjoying immediate benefits with disregard for its future cost. Great examples of experience behaviour can be seen when we are on holiday. We may buy an ice cream, go out for dinner, drink an extra cocktail or glass of wine, go for a day out, or just sit by the pool and read a book, because we can and purely for the joy of it.

Experience behaviour is spending our resources on something we want now, even at the expense of something we would far prefer to have in the future. Anyone who has ever struggled to save up for something they really want, and instead spent money on momentary treats will know this effect. This word cloud describes experience behaviour.

We flip-flop between the two modes. No-one remains permanently in one, although we all know people who spend more time in one mode or other. A person who is always in investment mode will probably be told by friends to “live a little”. A person who is always in experience mode will probably be told by friends to be more cautious and start “saving for a rainy day”.

We experience tension when we mix up the two types of behaviour. For example, if you take work away on holiday with you, your partner and your colleagues will probably tell you to stop working, put your emails away and enjoy yourself. On the other hand, if you spend all your time at work browsing social media and doing non-work-related tasks, you’ll probably also be called out!

It’s hardwired into us to prefer to be in experience mode. We have an instinctive preference for things we can have right now over the things we can have in the future. You may also have noticed that as well as being about time, the words in the ‘investment’ cloud are more rational and the words in the ‘experience’ cloud are more emotional, another reason we are drawn to them.

Do your products or services focus on making people’s lives better in the future? If so, how do you describe them? Do you talk in terms of the investment, the future benefits? Or can you find a few things they are going to love about them right now? Can you make them and the way you talk about them more experiential?

More articles

Desire Code Book

Love our articles? You'll love the book even more...