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The Sunlight Effect: How daylight might make you money…

Relevant topics Archive, Conversion

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    People spend more money on days when there’s more daylight.
  • Application:
    Prime people with imagery of sunlight to increase their willingness to pay, or launch important marketing promotions on sunny days.
  • Economic theory predicts that people’s spending activities do not vary with environmental conditions, such as seasons and weather-related factors. As neuromarketers, we know better than that. It’s hardly surprising we all pay more for ice cream during the summer and the sales of ice cold beers skyrocket when there’s more sunlight. The price dynamics of these nondurable goods make economic sense in the light of increasing demand. However, you wouldn’t expect to find such patterns in durable goods like art, but that’s not what science discovered…

    Behavioral psychology shows that seasons and weather affect mood and could affect behavior. It is well established that your biological clock has a lot of influence on your body: we all experience seasonal changes in our body mass, reproductive cycle and hibernation. But also learning, perception and social behavior is being influenced by your biological clock. And according to this article, the seasonal changes affect the way you spend. Even on durable goods. Weird right?

    Well, luckily, quite a bit of neuromarketing research has been done on this topic. Saunders (1993) claims that cloudy days create bad mood effects and decrease stock returns. Hirshleifer and Shumway (2003) showed that sunshine is strongly significantly correlated with stock returns. And there are many other researches documenting the effect of weather on your mood and the economic changes that come with it.

    We spend more during sunny days 

    Yes, we actually spend more money on a product when it’s sunny outside and when there’s more daylight. Kliger et. al. (2015) shows us that the daylight duration has a significant positive effect on selling prices of art, a non-durable good.

    People spend more money – even on non-durable goods – when there’s more daylight.   

    That’s correct, even when the product has ZERO overlap with the weather.

    Now, let’s put this knowledge to good use.

    First up, here’s one for the realtors. Which of these kitchens looks better?


    I think it’s safe to say you liked the right option better. Why? Cheerful seasons, depicted in the photo on the right, lowers risk aversion.

    This sheds a light (no pun intended…) on a few other ideas to use the Sunlight Effect:

    • Stores could feature videos and photography of sunny environments. This primes the Sunlight Effect, regardless of the actual weather outside.
    • Online services that regularly offer discounts (Spotify) could test with bigger discounts and more upgrades to their premium account during the summer and remove the constant screams for upgrading during the winter;
    • Stores could shift their opening times from dawn till dusk;
    • Put extra emphasis on upselling (online and offline) during the summer and remove upselling during the winter.

    The fact that we’re eager to spend a few extra dollars during days with more daylight makes it very tempting to test out some of these hypotheses. However, the effect was only found for hedonic products – products we buy for our pleasure. Like the painting you really wanted to buy or the kitchen example here above. But I’m curious as to whether this works for utilitarian products, like groceries. No research has been done to this product type, but for now, the results for hedonic products are very promising. 

  • The Sunlight Effect: How daylight might make you money…
  • Reference:

    Kliger, D., Raviv, Y., Rosett, J., Bayer, T., & Page, J. (2015). Seasonal affective disorder and seasoned art auction prices: New evidence from old masters. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 59, 74-84.


    Further Reading

    • Why Aspirational Advertising Fails 9 Times out of 10

      Why Aspirational Advertising Fails 9 Times out of 10

      We’ve all heard it before: “buy this car and have the luxury life you always wanted”. Usually, advertising sketches a utopia; an idealistic world. This form of marketing, where a certain product offers the key to the life you always wanted, is known as aspirational marketing.

      This form of advertising builds on the principle of cognitive consistency theory, which claims that a fit between one’s self-concept and an identity-enhancing brand or product category leads to greater attraction.

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