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Marketing Week: Targeting ‘Nine-Enders’: Why Age Is Much More Than a Number

From  Marketing Week: Out with the old, in with the new. January really is a gift for every marketer – especially if you’re involved in anything remotely virtuous. Now is the time when we’re all determined to pick up a new kale/charity/early-morning swim habit. It’s called the fresh-start effect and has been extensively studied by the Wharton behavioural scientist Katherine Milkman. Her findings provide evidence that people are more likely to adopt new behaviours at times of “temporal discontinuity” – that is, new time periods. Whether it’s a new day, a Monday, the start of a month or  – the biggie – new year. She argues that this effect is driven by our strong desire to be consistent. And when we enter a new time period, our relationship with our past self is weakened and it becomes a little bit easier to change our behaviour. In her well-known 2014 study, Milkman, along with Hengchen Dai and Jason Riis, examined three behaviours:
  • Dieting
  • Gym usership
  • Commitments to pursue new goals, such as quitting smoking
All increased at the start of new time periods. And it’s not just time periods that count. Discontinuity can be more than temporal. The same disruptive effect is brought about by significant life events – such as getting married, starting a new job or moving house.

Big birthdays matter

These are pretty well known and commonly exploited targets for marketers. But there is a lesser-known one that could offer you a distinctive angle — birthdays. And, specifically, big birthdays. The big three-0, four-0 and so on. There’s good evidence that people whose age ends in nine, or ‘nine-enders’, are more likely than any other age to make significant life changes. In 2014, Adam Alter and Hal Hershfield, at NYU and UCLA respectively, analysed data from 42,063 respondents to the World Values survey. This is a massive social sciences data set spanning 100 countries, examining a huge range of cultural values, attitudes and beliefs. They found that radical shifts occurred more often among those who were approaching a new decade of life. Read more at Marketing Week.