The Fewer the Better: Number of Goals and Savings Behavior

Dilip Soman and Min Zhao
Journal of Marketing Research (JMR)
Current average rating    
Key Takeaways
Executive Summary
The fact that consumers need to save more is beyond dispute. In this article, the authors examine how the number of saving goals affects saving behavior. While both prior research and intuition suggests that multiple goals should lead to greater performance, the authors draw on research on implementation mind-sets to make the opposite prediction. They propose that presenting a single savings goal (e.g., saving for children’s education) leads to higher saving achievement than presenting multiple savings goals (e.g., saving for children’s education, retirement, future housing). They further propose that this occurs because a single goal is more likely to activate an implementation intention compared with multiple goals because multiple goals typically evoke trade-off consideration among goals, which defers actions. However, when people only have one goal, they no longer need to make goal trade-offs and are more likely to move onto the second stage of the goal pursuance—a position to implement the goal. As a result, their commitment to the task at hand (i.e., saving) is stronger and their savings intention is greater.

The authors demonstrate the superiority of a single goal over multiple goals on savings behavior/intention in both a field setting with households in rural India and in laboratory settings with members from marketing research panels in three countries. Furthermore, the authors show that the advantage of a single goal is attenuated if the savings plan is easy to implement or when the competition among the multiple goals is reduced. When goals do not compete, it decreases the need to make trade-offs and thus removes the hurdle to an implementation mind-set. These findings add to research on financial decision making by demonstrating a new way to increase savings behavior/intention: limiting the number of savings goals to evoke an implementation mind-set. In addition, they have important implications for goal literature and for policy makers in encouraging consumer saving.

Dilip Soman is Professor of Marketing and Corus Professor of Communications Strategy at the Rotman School at the University of Toronto. He likes to study interesting human behaviors and to use them to help people live better lives.

Min Zhao is Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto. She received her PhD in Marketing from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her primary research interests include choice over time, mental simulation, consumers’ mind-sets, and consumers’ affective experiences. Professor Zhao has published in Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Research, and Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Journal of Marketing Research, Volume 48, Number 6, December 2011
View Table of Contents


Author Bio:

Dilip Soman and Min Zhao
Add A Comment :

Become a Member
Access our innovative members-only resources and tools to further your marketing practice.