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Tired Consumers More Susceptible to Advertising

Have you ever wondered why so many infomercials run overnight on television? Sure, that's when their producers can afford to buy time, but it also may be when their target audience is primed to get out their credit cards.

According to a forthcoming study that will be available in the Journal of Marketing Research, advertisers have better chances of winning over consumers when those consumers are tired.

The research was conducted by: Derek D. Rucker of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management; Echo Wen Wan of the University of Hong Kong's School of Business; Zakary L. Tormala of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University; and Joshua J. Clarkson, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Florida.

Here's how it works:

  • 1. The run-down state we approach as fatigue sets in is called "regulatory depletion."
  • 2. Regulatory depletion leads people to feel as if they've been more thorough and thoughtful in their processing and therefore, they become more certain in their attitudes.
  • 3. As a result, they could become more confident that a product is a great purchase -- a conclusion they might not come to if they weren't in regulatory depletion.
Could consumer fatigue backfire on advertisers?
In a press release, Rucker commented that advertisers should consider the times their messages run: "Rather than hit them when they are fresh, there might be an advantage of hitting them when they are a bit fatigued, but still capable of processing the advertisement."

One caveat: when tired, consumers aren't simply more assured of their positive attitudes, but negative ones as well. Rucker warns, "This means that an ad with weaker positioning can actually backfire by directly turning consumers away from a purchase."

Either way, next time it's 3 AM and you can't sleep, you'd probably do better to leave the television off, unless you want to end up with a new knife set or exercise system.

Sleeping dog image courtesy of Flickr user Teresia, CC 2.0