Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Time and the marketplace

By Daniel Read


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:
Provided by: LSE Research Online
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles


    1. (1999). A Hot/cool system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower. doi
    2. (1937). A note on the measurement of utility. doi
    3. (1981). An economic theory of self-control. doi
    4. (1980). An experimental analysis of impulsivity and impulse control in humans. doi
    5. (1992). Anomalies in intertemporal choice: Evidence and an interpretation. doi
    6. (1989). Anomalies: Intertemporal choice. doi
    7. (1997). Back to Bentham? Explorations of experienced utility. doi
    8. (1998). Beatrice adds fat and flavor to cheeses.
    9. (1997). Benthamite utility for decision making. Working paper,
    10. (1997). Bidding on the future: Evidence against normative discounting of delayed rewards.
    11. (1996). Can Package Size Accelerate Usage Volume?, doi
    12. (1999). Choice bracketing. doi
    13. (1998). Consumption Self-Control via Purchase Quantity Rationing of Virtue and Vice, doi
    14. (2000). Counteractive self-control in overcoming temptation. doi
    15. (1984). Discount functions and the measurement of patients values -- womens decisions during childbirth. doi
    16. (1991). Do workers prefer increasing wage profiles?, doi
    17. (1999). Doing it now or later. doi
    18. (1999). Eyeing greasehounds, Taco Bell sets $24m behind fried Chalupas.
    19. (1997). Golden eggs and hyperbolic discounting. doi
    20. (1994). How many paycheques? An example of a self-imposed constraint. doi
    21. (2002). Information and the evolution of the utility function. Working paper,
    22. (2001). Intrapersonal dilemmas. doi
    23. (1996). Lite Dining ahead of its time? Dairy Foods,
    24. (1997). Longitudinal study of procrastination, performance, stress, and health: The costs and benefits of dawdling. doi
    25. (1996). Low-fat market proves elusive for fast-food chains.
    26. (1996). Martin ousted as Taco Bell CEO. Nations Restaurant News,
    27. (1995). Mental conflict. doi
    28. (1994). Mexican Food: Oilé. Nutrition Action Health Letter.
    29. (1999). Mixing virtue and vice: Combining the immediacy effect and the desire for diversity. doi
    30. (1982). Moralities of everyday life. doi
    31. (1956). Myopia and Inconsistency in Dynamic Utility Maximization, doi
    32. (1994). New challenges to the rationality assumption. doi
    33. (1996). Out of Control: doi
    34. (1992). Picoeconomics: The strategic interaction of successive motivational states within the person. doi
    35. (1999). Potato manufacturers seek excitement beyond the fry.
    36. (1998). Predicting hunger: The effects of appetite and delay on choice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, doi
    37. (1995). Preference reversals due to myopic discounting of delayed reward. doi
    38. (1977). Prices and choices: microeconomic vignettes.
    39. (1991). Procrastination and obedience,
    40. (2002). Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment, doi
    41. (2002). Reasons for sequence preferences. doi
    42. (1995). Sales of nutritionally improved foods outpace traditional counterparts,
    43. (1984). Self-command in Practice, in Policy, and in a Theory of Rational Choice.
    44. (1992). Self-Command: A New Discipline,
    45. (2002). Self-control for the righteous: Toward a theory of pre-commitment to indulgence. doi
    46. (2003). Self-rationing: Self-control in consumer choice. In doi
    47. (1981). Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency. doi
    48. (1975). Specious reward: A behavioral theory of impulsiveness and impulse control. doi
    49. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. doi
    50. (1995). Stuffed crust puffs up PepsiCo profits.
    51. (1995). Taco Bells Border Lights fail to fatten sales.
    52. (1994). Temporal discounting and preference reversals in choice between delayed outcomes. doi
    53. (1984). Tests of an equivalence rule for fixed and variable reinforcer delays. doi
    54. (2000). The economics of immediate gratification. doi
    55. (1997). The endogenous determination of time preference. doi
    56. (1996). The low-fat lowdown.
    57. (2002). The lure of choice. LSE Working paper.
    58. (1997). The Matching Law. New York: Russell Sage Foundation and Cambridge, MA: doi
    59. (1993). The Nature of Rationality. doi
    60. (1994). The reasonableness of non-constant discounting. doi
    61. (1998). The Red and the Black: doi
    62. (2000). The Triumph of Taste. Frozen Food Age,
    63. (2002). Time discounting and time preference: A critical review. doi
    64. (1991). Time-Inconsistent Preferences and Consumer Self-Control, doi
    65. (1980). Toward a positive theory of consumer choice. doi
    66. (2000). Ulysses unbound. Cambridge: doi
    67. (1993). Wages, seniority, and the demand for rising consumption profiles. doi
    68. (1996). Wendys, McDonalds seek new menu sizzle.
    69. (1993). When it comes to burgers, we crave beef, not McLean.
    70. (1999). Why do people give interest-free loads to the government? An experimental study of interim tax payments. doi

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.