It’s Miller Time. Live Richly. What do these vastly different
marketing campaigns—one selling beer, the other financial services—have
in common? They both focus on experiencing, rather than possessing,
products. And according to a study by Stanford Graduate School of
Business researchers, both are vastly more effective campaigns as a

Because a person’s experience with a product tends to foster
feelings of personal connection with it, referring to time typically
leads to more favorable attitudes—and to more purchases, says Jennifer
Aaker, the General Atlantic Professor of Marketing at Stanford Graduate
School of Business.

Aaker and her coauthor, Cassie Mogilner, a PHD candidate in marketing on whose thesis the paper is based, analyzed 300 ads in Money, New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, and Rolling Stone
and found that nearly half (48 percent) included a reference to time.
Clearly, marketers feel at some intuitive level that this time is
important, says Aaker. Despite this, very little research has been
done on whether the focus on time actually changes consumers'
purchasing decisions or overall satisfaction with what they buy.
Mogilner and Aaker hypothesized that marketers themselves weren’t aware
of the value of stressing time. What our work contributes is that they
can trigger very different attitudes and behaviors just by mentioning
time rather than money. We also show why this occurs, she says.

One explanation is that our relationship with time is much more
personal than our relationship with money. Ultimately, time is a more
scarce resource—once it's gone, it's gone—and therefore more meaningful
to us, says Mogilner. How we spend our time says so much more about
who we are than does how we spend our money.

Previous research had demonstrated that mentioning money makes
people more self-sufficient, physically withdrawn, and less likely to
help others. On the other hand, when you refer to time, there's a big
social component that integrates the products you use with the people
in your life, which makes the product experience more meaningful and
richer, says Mogilner.

In their first experiment the authors set up a lemonade
stand—operated by two six-year olds, to make it appear authentic—for
which they used three different signs. The first sign read Spend a
little time and enjoy C&D's lemonade; the second one, Spend a
little money, and enjoy C&D's lemonade; and the third, neutral one
said simply, Enjoy C&D's lemonade. Only one of the signs was
displayed at a time. Customers were told they could pay between $1 and
$3 for a cup of lemonade; the exact amount was up to them. After they
made their purchase, they were surveyed to determine their attitude
toward the lemonade.

The results were instructive: The sign stressing time attracted
twice as many passersby—who were willing to pay almost twice as
much—than when the money sign was displayed.

In a second experiment college students who owned iPods were either
asked: How much time have you spent on your iPod? or How much money
have you spent on your iPod? Students asked about time reported more
favorable attitudes toward their iPods than those asked about money.
We were very surprised at how strong the differences were, says

But Mogilner and Aaker were interested in investigating even more
complex ramifications of the time-money relationship. One theory is
that references to money will always be negative because consumers are
reminded of the cost of acquiring a product rather than the pleasure of
consuming it. To explore this possibility, Aaker and Mogilner surveyed
attendees at an outdoor music concert in San Francisco. Although the
concert itself was free, people had to wait in line for long periods of
time to get decent seats. Aaker and Mogilner asked random individuals:
How much time will you have spent to see the concert today? or How
much money will you have spent to see the concert today? Even in cases
where the real cost of the product was time rather than money, asking
specifically about time increased participants' favorable attitudes
toward the concert.

Even more strikingly, people who stood in line longer—who actually
incurred a higher cost in terms of time spent—rated their satisfaction
with the concert higher. Even though waiting is presumably a bad
thing, it somehow made people concentrate on the overall experience,
says Aaker.

The exception to all this: When marketing products that consumers
buy for prestige value, stressing money spent seems to be more
effective. Designer jeans, expensive jewelry, and high-status cars all
fall into this category. With such 'prestige' purchases, consumers
feel that possessing the products reflect important aspects of
themselves, and get more satisfaction from merely owning the product
rather than spending time with it, says Mogilner.

Mogilner embarked on this research because she was passionate
about finding out what makes consumers happy, and how the products in
their lives can contribute to their happiness. We were largely
interested in helping consumers make better buying decisions, says

Still, there were takeaways for businesses, too. From marketers'
points of view, the study should be compelling because today they have
less control over how their products are perceived by consumers. That
control is shifting to the consumers themselves. One study showed that
user-generated ads were nine times more effective than
marketer-generated ads, says Aaker. Being aware of what brings
meaning to the lives of potential customers of a product will help
businesses with their marketing efforts.

Mogilner, who has accepted a faculty job at the Wharton School of
Business at the University of Pennsylvania, will be continuing her work
on how companies can build innovative brands by focusing on improving
the lives of consumers. Especially interested in the commercial uses of
such resources as viral videos, social networks, and YouTube, Mogilner
feels there is much that businesses don't understand about the power of
these emerging technologies. Marketers have a lot to learn about how
they can positively influence the ways that their products improve the
lives and happiness of their customers, she says.