Want to Increase Sales? Sell Time, Not Cost

Last Updated Apr 14, 2009 11:41 AM EDT

If you are struggling to find ways to increase sales during the current recession, Jennifer Aaker, the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, has some very relevant tips for creating a more effective marketing message. In a forthcoming study, Aaker finds that consumers respond more favorably to marketing that focuses on time, not money.

Why customers respond to time
"Ultimately, time is a more scarce resource -- once it's gone, it's gone -- and therefore more meaningful to us," says Cassie Mogilner, a Ph.D. candidate in marketing at Stanford who co-authored the study. "How we spend our time says so much more about who we are than does how we spend our money."

The study found that mentioning time is not only effective because consumers are trying to make the most of theirs, but also because time represents a community value, whereas money signifies a more personal one.

"When you refer to time, there's a big social component that integrates the products you use with the people in your life, which makes the product experience more meaningful and richer," says Mogilner.

Three tips you can use today
To shift your own advertising efforts away from money and better connect with customers' time values, your marketing and branding efforts should:

  • 1. Emphasize how the product frees up consumers' valuable time
  • 2. Build your brand as one that makes leisure or work time more enjoyable
  • 3. Accentuate your product's potential for relationship building (i.e., time spent with others)
Though countless successful marketing campaigns have been built around spending less, Aaker and Mogilner contend that referencing money will always have a slightly negative connotation. Even when a purchase is a relative bargain, many buyers resent having to spend their money at all. Spending time, on the other hand, is something no one can avoid. So companies can improve sales by showing how they help consumers spend it well.

Money Clock image by Flickr user brewbooks, CC 2.0

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.