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Amitava Chattopadhyay

Amitava Chattopadhyay
Emerging Market Multinationals - Amitava Chattopadhyay

Antonios Stamatogiannakis

Why Modest Goals Appeal to Us

Let’s say you’re wondering whether to set more money aside this coming year. You could go for a modest goal, such as increasing your savings by 1%, or pick a more ambitious one. You could also tell yourself: “I won’t increase my savings, but I’ll make sure to maintain whatever savings I already have.” New research by global school INSEAD, IE Business School, and Pamplin College of Business shows that you’re more likely to think that modestly increasing your savings is the most achievable of the three goals.

But isn’t it easier to maintain your savings than to increase them? Logically, yes, but here’s what you need to know. When we evaluate goals, we first consider the gap between the current and desired states. If that gap seems small enough, most of us feel quite encouraged. We think: “How difficult could it be? It’s an easy win! I can definitely do this!”

Attain at the West, Maintain at the East: Goal Framing Matters

Let’s say that you run a bank. You decide to give more credit to your good customers. Should you give it those who increase their account balance by any amount (even as small as 1 euro) per year? Or to those who just maintain their account? Which offer would they find more appealing?

Now imagine that you are running a charity and you want to increase repeated donations. Should you ask your contributors to pre-commit to making the same donation again and again? Or should you ask them to pre-commit to increasing their donation every time they donate, even if the increase is just only 1 cent? Which setup would they find more motivating?

Can such small differences (1 euro, 1 cent, etc.) have an impact on consumer behavior, consumer welfare, and business outcomes? And what impact, exactly?

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