Are we effectively communicating with future-oriented people?

This post starts with the assumption that the work on the three orientations, past, present and future, is accurate. That may or may not be the case, but it’s an assumption for this post.


Wall engraved quote saying, "Our future is greater than our past" by Ben Okri
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons: SAN_DRINO


My friend, we will call her Melissa, is losing weight (very successfully I might add!). But she’s not doing it to look better; she’s losing weight because she foresees, based on family history and other factors, that this will benefit her long-term. My friend Melissa is future-oriented. I am the same way and her comments have made me, a burger loving, pizza craving person, go to Whole Foods for a salad for lunch, not because I feel guilty or want to look better, but because I want to still be healthy at age 60.

If you look at most marketing messages they are focused on the short-term. “Look better naked” reads a billboard for Gold’s Gym, “fast-acting” reads most medicine labels, and “change beginning tomorrow” is the theme of most political ads.  In the same way, many ads appeal to the past-oriented people, mostly through nostalgia. But what about the major subset the population that is future-oriented? Are we communicating effectively to them? We do for some products or services that lends themselves naturally to it, such as financial planning, but often, we forego discussing the long-term benefits in favor of short-term ones.

Perhaps we should start by including our target market’s orientation in our marketing process. For example, if we know that a large portion of our target market is future-oriented, we should talk about more long-term vs. short-term benefits. And, if we have a split target market when it comes to time orientation, craft messages for both.  In this method of thinking, Gold’s Gym would keep their “Look better naked” message but also have messages for those that are future-benefit oriented, such as “Still be able to hike a mountain at age 60.”