A New Marketing Measure: Psychological Distance

Electric cars seem to need more marketing help. President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech made 1,000,000 electric cars by 2015 a goal, but we are nowhere close to achieving that. Notably, even the environmentally concerned Pope chose a gas-run car for his recent trip to the US. Electric cars are environmentally friendly and cost efficient in the long term, but the average consumer is not yet sold. Imagine you get the thankless job of marketing such a car. Do you try to make electric cars seem hip and fashionable, or do you want consumers to think about how the cars can serve their long-term goals? Research suggests that the former message should be delivered via relatively visual media such as Instagram, and the latter one via relatively verbal media such as Twitter.

Why? Studies show that a psychological factor that affects people’s attitudes towards objects and events in the world, is how distant these objects and events seem to the individual, either in terms of time, location, and even socially. Evidence from the science of psychological distance indicates that people tend to prefer visual information when they think about objects and events that are close to them. In contrast, people tend to prefer verbal information when they think about objects and events that are far away from them. For example, suppose you are waiting for a table at your favorite Thai restaurant. There is a good chance that you will vividly imagine the color of the noodles you are planning to order, and the smell of that wonderful sauce they’re using. However, if you schedule going to that same restaurant with friends a couple of weeks from now, you might be less likely to experience this type of vivid mental simulation. Rather, you are likely to think —> Read More