Working Harder is Smarter Than You Think

Today’s date is Jan 19, which means we’re past the halfway mark of the month (holy cow, time really does fly). Being closer to February also means that we’re about to see a lot of people fail their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, ~43% of all people are expected to fail their New Year’s goals before the start of February — that’s quite a stat!

It’s no surprise though, last week I noticed a lot of newbies at the gym, eager to start their 2023 fitness goals, decked out from head-to-toe in all the latest & greatest activewear. If I was a betting man, I’d bet that in a couple of week’s time, most won’t be back, leaving their activewear to gather dust on top of their dressers.

While I waited for the treadmill, curiosity got the best of me, and it got me thinking; why do we see an increase in gym memberships at the start of a new year, while less expensive & more convenient options for weight loss, such as diet pills, slimming belts, and nutritional supplements, don’t experience the same level of growth?

I’m sure the end results are a factor but I was certain there was something deeper than that, otherwise the gym-alternatives would be out of business! So I decided to turn to everyone’s best friend, Google, and found a journal article by Keisha Cutright & Adriana Samper.

They discovered some pretty valuable insights, so let’s review them and see how they could be applied to your advertising efforts.

Sweat or Sleep?

In a nutshell, Cutright & Samper’s research revealed that certain individuals favor products or services that require more effort over those that don’t require any effort at all.

Before we dive into it, let’s first clarify the meaning of high-effort and low-effort products:

  • High-effort product — refers to a product or service that requires a significant amount of time or energy to create, maintain, or use. (e.g. Joggers with the tagline “Work harder, run faster”)
  • Low-effort product — refers to a product or service that is the opposite of the above definition (e.g. Slimming belts with the tagline “Lose weight while you sleep”)

Don’t you find this strange? Why would someone choose a product or service that requires a lot of effort?

Let Me Take the Wheel

Turns out, as humans, whether we like to admit it or not, all want some level of control. When our sense of control is challenged, we tend to seek out products that demand more effort and hard work because we want to believe that we can drive our own outcomes.

We want to believe that our efforts matter and that something changed because of our actions, and that we’ve earned a reward that fits our effort.

Cutright and Samper found that this concept applies in both directions. If a product provides customers with a lot of control, but does not lead to any meaningful changes or a sense of achievement, it will be seen as less desirable in the eyes of the customer.

The point is progress and achievement — Products or services that reassure us that our desired outcome is possible through hard work are more preferred over those that require little effort because it implies that we have a minimal role to play in achieving the outcome.

The best product or service is one that allows you to work hard, and rewards you for doing it.

So…What Does This Mean For Me?

If you made it this far, I presume you’ve put in the effort and now expect a reward, right? Without further adieu, here’s how you can apply Cutright and Samper’s research to your ad campaigns:

  • If you have a high-effort product/service — Incorporate messaging that gives the customer a sense of control. Provide them with a genuine sense of accomplishment as each milestone represents a step towards their desired outcome.
  • If you have a low-effort product/service —  Incorporate messaging that conveys convenience and personal involvement. Emphasize ease-of-use but be sure to remind your customers that their role matters in achieving their desired outcome.

It’s important for your customers to believe they have control, and if they don’t, it’s equally as important to show them they can regain control quickly and make progress. Personally, I think it’s about time I take back control of today and log off a little earlier…