$5billion of proof that shorter deadlines are better

Screen shot 2011-01-13 at 09.30.38Another gem from Steve Martin, author of "Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persusasion". This one is about how shorter deadlines are more effective than longer ones at driving action.

Steve quotes fascinating research on gift cards done by UCLA's business school. One set of people got a coffee shop gift card valid for 3 weeks. Another lot got a gift card of the same value, but valid for 3 months.

When asked how likely they were to use the gift card, the results were:

Expect to use 3 week card: 50%

Expect to use 3 month card: 68%

But guess what happened in reality?

3 week card: 33% (-17% vs. expected)

3 month card: 6% (-62% vs. expected)

In reality, if we have too much time to do something, we never get around to it. The research helps explain why the value of un-used giftcards in the US is, wait for it, $5billion!

A few learnings from this:

1.If you want action to happen, set a short deadline. Many brand teams I work with say this happens with creative work. Partner agencies like to have lots of time to do work. But in reality, a looming deadline is what spurs people into action.

2. If you want consumer action, set a short deadline: if you want consumer action, such as consumer feedback or participation, a shorter deadline is more likely to get a response.

3. To minimise cost, have a long deadline! Being cynical, if you want to minimise cost, offering a longer deadline for gift cards is likely to reduce costs through lower actual usage. But then you miss out on the brand usage the card is supposed to generate.

More on Steve's brilliant work on persuasion here and here.