Gratitude Promotes Experiential Consumption

Gratitude Promotes Experiential Consumption

Gratitude-based marketing campaigns increase the desire for more experiential consumption while reducing materialistic purchase decisions, according to a new study.

A recently published article by Dr. Sunaina Chugani, Assistant Professor of Marketing, explored the link between gratitude-based marketing campaigns and consumers purchase preferences.

Research shows that people are materialistic because they feel like they need more things to compensate for not having enough. Because of how our brains work, we tend to stop noticing the good things in our lives as they fade into the background. This includes things like our good health, family members, the roof over our heads, or even a good cup of coffee in the morning. So, we may crave more because we don’t notice what we already have. Practicing gratitude involves noticing those good things instead of focusing on what is missing.

Dr. Chugani and her colleagues were curious about whether practicing gratitude would cause someone to feel more abundance in their lives and, as a result, become less materialistic. Put differently, they explored whether gratitude-based marketing reduces materialistic purchase decisions and promote experiential consumption.

To test their predictions, Chugani and her colleagues designed four longitudinal experiments. In their first two experiments, they demonstrated that gratitude-based marketing is associated with reduced entitlement and perceived resource scarcity. In subsequent experiments, they observed that gratitude was positively related to greater preference to experiential consumption and negatively related to materialistic values. In their experiments, Chugani and colleagues recruited adults from all over the US to participate in a two and a half week study. People were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first group kept a gratitude journal where they regularly wrote about what they were grateful for during those two and a half weeks. Another group also kept a journal, but instead wrote about things that amused them. The third group did not keep a journal. These last two groups were our control conditions. We measured perceived resource abundance and materialism at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the study.

Overall, their findings show that relative to the control conditions, getting people to practice gratitude over time increased their sense of abundance in life, and that this sense of abundance reduced how materialistic they were.

Dr. Chugani points to a couple of key takeaways from the study. First, a gratitude practice is such an easy thing to implement, and this research finding suggests it is a powerful lever. Humans are wired for survival, not happiness. That is why we notice what we don’t have more than what we do have, and we crave more. Our research highlights the power of reminding ourselves of what we do have. It can increase our sense of abundance and decrease how much we think we need to be happy.

Second, overconsumption contributes to the degradation of our planet. Public policy makers can use this research to promote gratitude and hopefully decrease the amount of material products consumers crave.

The study was published in the Journal of Business Research, a high-impact journal in RCVCOBE’s journal quality guide. It was co-authored with Hyunjung Crystal Lee (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain) and Jae-Eun Namkoong (University of Nevada-Reno).