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Time and the marketplace

By Daniel Read

Abstract

Consumers are often confronted with choices between options that vary in their short and long term benefit, or what we call immediate and delayed utility. This paper describes the marketing implications of what economists and psychologists have learned about how consumers make these choices. The focus is on how consumers will often put disproportionate weight on immediate utility, thereby over-consuming goods offering small early benefits at a larger, later cost (vices), and under-consuming those offering large delayed benefits at a smaller, sooner cost (virtues). The various manifestations of this tendency in consumer choice are described, followed by a consideration of the sometimes subtle strategic issues surrounding the marketing of vices and virtues to consumers whose preferences change as a function of time to consumption. Special attention is paid to the ‘market for willpower,’ which is the market for goods that enable sophisticated consumers to overcome their difficult-to-control drive for short-term gratification. We conclude by asking what consumers ‘really’ want, and considering how marketers can and should respond to these desires

Topics: QA Mathematics, BF Psychology
Publisher: Department of Operational Research, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2003
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:22771
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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