Research: A busy mindset can be a marketing tool

A busy mindset increases self esteem and should be a key element in marketing campaign strategising, according to fresh research from global business school, Insead

Framing products around virtuousness can help businesses market to those with a busy mindset, according to new research.

Global business school, Insead, recently found the mere perception of yourself as a busy person, or what they call a busy mindset, is a ‘badge of honour’ that can be used to promote better self-control, and marketers can leverage this with ‘virtuous’ offerings requiring this self-control.

When Busy Is Less Indulging: Impact of a Busy Mindset on Self-Control Behaviours, was created by Amitava Chattopadhyay, professor of marketing at Insead, and co-authors, Monica Wadhwa, associate professor of marketing and supply chain management at Fox School of Business at Temple University, and Jeehye Christine Kim, assistant professor of marketing at HKUST. The report shows there can be a flip side to being busy. While people who feel under significant time pressure tend to get anxious and make hedonic decisions, those who simply think of themselves as busy tend to make virtuous choices as a result of their perceived self-importance.

“It is common for marketers to use busy-ness as a campaign concept, as many consumers can relate to it. However, if the advertised product is an indulgent one – such as fast food – the campaign could backfire,” Chattopadhyay said. “Busy-ness appeals should be more effective for products that require people to assert self-control, as would be the case for a gym chain, for example.

“What we show is that feeling busy helps when the offering is virtuous. For many products, this is a matter of framing. If an oatmeal cookie is framed as rich in fibre, then it is seen as virtuous. However, framed as being delicious, it is seen as indulgent. So framing it right is important.”

The research came about when a PhD student at Insead came up with an idea from personal reflection. Her intuition was that feeling busy made her more able to exercise self-control. However, the literature on being busy was about time pressure, and time pressure reduces self-control. So the researchers set about to see if indeed feeling busy led to increased self-control and if it did, why.

“People who are high in work ethic are more likely to see being busy as a badge of honour and thus feeling busy for them enhances their self-importance and results in better self-control. So being busy has always been important for some people,” Chattopadhyay said.

“When we feel self-important, we tend to do things we ‘ought’ to do.  So we make decisions that are ‘virtuous’.

“Every day, we make many decisions that involve choosing between our immediate and future well-being. For instance, do we go to the gym after work, or do we just go home to relax in front of the television? Do we save money for retirement, or do we splurge on a trip? Do we eat fruit or cake for dessert? When we perceive ourselves to be busy, it boosts our self-esteem, tipping the balance in favour of the more virtuous choice,” he said.

Importantly, the studies proved a heightened sense of self-importance was the key reason behind the increase in self-control.

“When we temporarily dampened the sense of self-importance of participants who otherwise felt busy, the self-control effect vanished,” Chattopadhyay said.

Insead is a leading graduate business schools.

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