According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, instant gratification is “the experience of satisfaction or receipt of reward as soon as a response is made.”

Instant gratification is getting everything that you want immediately. No waiting or delaying gratification. Examples in our day-to-day life include watching TV, checking email, and using social media.

Many people feel like they need to enjoy life as much as possible because it’s short and unpredictable. One way to do this is to make life as easy as possible by getting what we want when we want it and how we want it.

chocolate cake

This can be a bit of a double-edged sword; we may end up lazy because we’re getting everything we need easily and quickly without any work.

And since our goals and desires change over time, this cycle of instant gratification often leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction. In the future, what was once so important isn’t so important anymore.

The reward system

It refers to a group of neural structures responsible for feeling good when you are rewarded. When you experience instant pleasure, the brain releases chemicals that make you happy, such as dopamine. Unfortunately, these experiences can cause changes in the brain that can lead to addiction.

The reward system is generally considered to be made up of the main dopamine pathways of the brain and structures like the VTA and nucleus accumbens, which are connected by these dopamine pathways.

The marshmallow effect

The marshmallow effect is a term coined by Walter Mischel in the late 1960s after his landmark study on delayed gratification. The effect describes the tendency for people who could wait longer in his study to enjoy better life outcomes in adulthood.

Mischel and his colleagues studied preschool-aged children and tested them on their ability to delay gratification in two different ways: either by waiting alone for a short time or by following that short wait with a period of self-directed play with an attractive toy.

In the procedure, when the experimenter left the room, each child was placed at a table in front of one marshmallow (or another desirable food item) and told that if they could resist eating it until they returned, they could have two.

Reminder: This was the late 1960s when child obesity wasn’t yet an issue.

marshmallows

The researchers found that the children varied widely in how long they waited. Those who managed to hold out got their reward. Those who didn’t have to settle for one marshmallow or other treat now instead of two later.

Meanwhile, the researchers followed up with each of these children nine years later. Again, they found that those who were able to resist eating the marshmallow in their youth started doing better in school and had lower levels of substance abuse as adolescents.

The study has been replicated many times, finding this exact correlation between delayed gratification and enjoying better outcomes in the future.

See how the marshmallow effect works in the video below:

Examples of instant gratification

Here are several examples of instant gratification that are connected to marketing:

Scrolling social media apps

Social media gives us an instant stimulus in the form of beautiful pictures, Insta Stories of influencers, images capturing a perfect life of perfect strangers. It’s not easy to get detached from this world. That’s why advertisements on Instagram are so great. The more people scroll, the easier it is to target them.

Spending instead of saving

Some people can save money easily, and some do not. People generally like to spend because it’s easy. But you can convince them that they are saving instead of spending. You can achieve that using discounts and sales, as described below.

Discounts and sales

As said above, people don’t like to think they don’t have self-control. So if they buy a product, they want to make sure they’ve got a deal.

How many times have you purchased a product because it was on sale and never used it? That’s because you like the feeling of getting more bang for your buck. It makes you feel satisfied you didn’t overpay for a product even if you don’t need it.

Eating out

Cooking takes time that we often don’t have. Eating out or getting takeaway solves this problem right away. You don’t have to make an effort, and you get a delicious meal. If you want to get your food fast, you choose junk food.

That’s why coupons and specials for junk food restaurants are so popular that people would pay even less for a meal.

Spending on entertainment

The entertainment industry is growing every year. According to statista.com, in the United States, the entertainment and media market was worth an estimated 678 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. It was expected to grow to over 720 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.

People want to be entertained and they want it fast, hence the growing popularity of streaming services such as Netflix.

couple watching netflix

How to use instant gratification in marketing

Concerning a human’s built-in desire for satisfaction, digital marketers can provide effectively.

The most effective way to provide your audience with instant gratification is to give them something right now. However, it all comes down to your company in the end. So what can you do for your consumers immediately?

I’m going to issue a caution right now. Once the customer obtains anything, their desire for quick gratification does not cease. Instant satisfaction leads to more instant satisfaction. To put it another way, when you give your customers some degree of immediate gratification, they will expect you to respond immediately in future encounters.

How to provide instant gratification? 

Use the word “now”

One of the most apparent and simplest methods to achieve immediate gratification is through your messaging. Headings like “Lose 7 Lbs in 7 Days” are extremely effective because it promises a certain benefit. It assures us that we will receive a sufficient amount of that advantage in a suitable span of time.

sale deal

People want their efforts to pay off right away. In the field of weight reduction, seven days is as fast as it gets. This language of fast benefits fulfills the need for immediate gratification and provides individuals something to work toward.

To learn more about how to use time scarcity in your marketing strategy make sure to check out our post about scarcity in marketing.

Give instant information

Customers want to know more about a product or service before they decide whether or not it is right for them. You may satisfy this demand via online forms and goods that provide real-time customized data.

Set up email auto-response

People enjoy receiving rapid answers to their questions. If you’re collecting email leads, be courteous and respond automatically.

Provide downloadable resources

The downloadable product is one of the most effective forms of real-time feedback. You may provide a link to download material in only a few steps.

Enable online sales

Instant gratification is crucial when it comes to digital sales. Customers may download their products right away. Instant satisfaction is especially possible with SaaS (software as a service). There’s nothing getting in the way of a user getting started.

Make your onboarding procedure completely automated. Customers can begin without delay, waiting, or processing.

Conclusion

We are always looking for instant gratification. We want things right away, so we have to do our best to fulfill this need. First, be aware of the fact that people want instant rewards, and they will expect them in the future, so give them what they want now.

Second, use the word “now” often in your message because it suggests that there is a possibility of getting an immediate reward. Third, accept that customers want information before making a decision or purchase and provide it.

The last thing you can do is allow people to download products right away with SaaS (software as a service) because this satisfies their needs for instant gratification.

If you want to learn more about psychology in marketing check out our other articles.

Author

Experienced psychologist and T-shaped marketer with a deep love for content marketing and conversion copywriting. Privately a big fan of travel, coffee, and jazz!

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