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August 20th, 2008

Can Advertisers Persuade Americans to Save?



In a buyer’s world where advertisers thrive on convincing consumers that their products and services need to become a regimented part of their daily lives, the questions arise, “can these same advertisers persuade consumers to save their money instead of spend it? What can financial institutions learn from advertisers to convince their customers to put a little extra away for retirement?”

Initially, it seems practically impossible to reverse the in-grained mentality US consumers have to spend, spend, spend. Yet, even if you consider yourself a saver, our world is filled with an unlimited supply of things to buy; not to mention, when your government hands you $600, no questions asked, with the instruction to spend it in order to “save” the economy. We all know how that went.

It seems like an oxymoron to mention advertising and saving in the same sentence. But what if the power of advertising could mold consumer minds to save instead of spend?

Robert Powell from Markewatch.com wrote an interesting piece that examines this wishful theory:

BOSTON (MarketWatch) — Many American companies are adept at getting people to start habits. Firms such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever “have perfected the art of creating automatic behaviors,” said Charles Duhigg of the New York Times.

By contrast, companies in the financial-services sector — specifically banks, insurers, mutual fund firms and the like — have failed to create the cues to get Americans to develop the saving habit or break the spending habit. So the question arises: What lessons, if any, can financial firms learn from those firms so skilled at manufacturing habits? What are the cues needed to create the savings habit?

Despite Powell’s article ending in ultimate uncertainty, it still begs the important questions, offers insightful suggestions, and points out that all too many Americans are ill-prepared for retirement, especially when experts say you’ll need millions to fade into the sunset.

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2 Responses to “Can Advertisers Persuade Americans to Save?”

  1. Rebecca Wilder Says: August 20th, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Why would banks encourage saving? What they want is to make loans; that is where the profit potential is. Anecdotally, I never receive saving account applications, just credit card applications (loans); that’s just business. To me, it is not the banking sector’s responsibility to create an American saving habit.

  2. Stevie Nichts Says: August 21st, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Well, I can’t speak for Rebecca, but I regularly receive invitations from ING Direct, Orange Bank, and Capital One to open savings accounts. In fact one of them (I think Orange) will add $25 to my new account.

    Banks do encourage savings – it is where many of them get the funds to make loans. Not all sell to Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac.

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Tim Manni is the Managing Editor of HSH.com and the author of their daily blog, which concentrates on the latest developments in the mortgage and housing markets.

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