- Wed, September 07 2011
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
Roger Dooley at Neuromarketing blog yesterday posted on an odd experiment showing that when people contemplated their own mortality through a vivid, personal story about death, they were more likely to be altruistic. Specifically, they were more likely to give blood:
A vivid story can put us in a more altruistic mode, a study shows. UK researchers looked at the two ways people think about death – abstractly or specifically. They used a detailed story which placed the reader in a burning apartment to activate specific death thoughts. A second group of subjects answered more general questions about death, while a control group was exposed to non-death-related material. They then gave subjects a second item to read, an article about blood donations which came in two versions, suggesting that blood donations were either at record highs or record lows. Finally, all subjects were given the opportunity to express an interest in donating blood.
The results of the experiment were interesting. The subjects primed with general thoughts of death were the most altruistic, but only when the need was high. The subjects who were primed with more specific thoughts about death (the vivid apartment fire) saw an increase in altruism compared to the control group even if the need was low.
As Roger rightly points out, this is one of those experiments that really gets you wondering, “Is there a practical application here?”
I think this is just further proof (as Roger says) that vivid storytelling spurs giving. We don’t have forever on this earth, and if the experiences of others can remind us of our mortality and inspire us to do good, all the better.
I think it’s also wise to contemplate our own mortality as marketers. We can’t forget that everyone has many options for how to spend the precious time we are given in this short life. Therefore we should feel an obligation to provide a very good case for why they should devote some of their life to what we’re asking. If we can’t make that case competently and convincingly from their point of view, then we should leave people alone.