Scary Thought: A Treatment for Impulse Buying
Here’s a thought that would terrify many marketers… what if consumers prone to impulsive behavior decided to take a pill to quiet those impulses? While clearly lack of impulse control is a serious issue for some individuals and can lead to extreme behavior, marketers of everything from checkout lane mints to Porsches depend to some degree on consumers acting impulsively. Wall Street Journal editor Jason Zweig is interviewed by Morningstar’s Christine Benz below:
Zweig is author of the fascinating guide to the emerging science of neuroeconomics, Your Money and Your Brain. While his focus is mainly on investment behavior, I have to believe impulsive purchases have a lot in common with impulsive financial decisions, since each purchase is itself a financial decision. Zweig notes,
One that I’ve been sort of paying a lot of attention to out of the corner of my eye is what’s come to be called genoeconomics, which is a study of essentially how our DNA interacts with our financial decision making, and scientists have already identified several genes that seem to be implicated in controlling impulsive behaviors.
So that down the road one of the hopes is that if people can come up with perhaps a drug treatment or a behavioral treatment, you may be able to identify people who have a genetic predisposition toward being impulsive, for example. So that you may eventually get to the point where you can help people save for the future and set aside their impulsive reluctance to set money aside.
Will there be pills and supplements that promise “better decision-making” in the future? Could that force some marketers to shift from emotional pitches to more rational appeals? It’s interesting to speculate, but I suspect we are many years away from development of such pharmaceuticals, and widespread adoption seems unlikely even if they were shown to be safe and effective.
Full interview text is here.