A not-so-surprising study from UBC’s Sauder School of Business found that guilt is a major motivator in purchasing self-help products aimed at improving your life.
If you feel like you are failing in certain aspects of your life, it’s not unusual to have the sudden desire to buy a pair of running shoes or a gym membership.
“We found that guilt reminds you of times you know you could have done better, which pushes you to seek out ways to improve,” said study co-author Thomas Allard, who’s a PhD candidate at Sauder.
In the study, Allard and market professor Katherine White made people think about times they felt guilty about a situation or invoked guilty feelings through advertising and then gauged their interest in products aimed at self-improvement such as a fitness app. They found Guilt was the greatest motivator for self-improvement compared to other negative emotions like embarrassment and shame.
“Feeling guilty about missing a work commitment could, for instance, motivate you to apply for a gym membership – because people want to find other ways to improve themselves,” said Allard.
Allard thinks this study could be very useful to marketers, since guilt is so prevalent in our everyday lives. He said it if we can spin it into something positive, then there’s a silver lining to negative emotions.