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From fitness trackers to diet apps, there’s an abundance of tools to help people reach their goals – but what happens when they fail? Studies have found that providing immediate feedback prompts people to keep going, and that sharing goals publicly can be an effective motivator. We explore the insights and opportunities behind what this latest body of research means for brands looking to engage and inspire goal-seeking hopefuls to stay on track.

Researchers from Binghamton University have found that people who publicly share their goals are more likely to keep trying to reach a goal after failure – but only if they care about their public reputation. Meanwhile, receiving immediate feedback after a failure was shown to be a key driver that prompts people to persist. "If someone gives you immediate feedback, you then start thinking about what you could've done better," says Dr. Jenny Jiao, an assistant professor at Binghamton University. However, "if that feedback is delayed, then you've probably found ways to justify your failure.” The study also found that incentives need to be perceived as very valuable in order to convince someone to continue working towards a goal after hitting a failure.

In an age where social sharing and self-improvement are the norm, there’s a proliferation of marketing campaigns and helpful apps encouraging audiences to post or track their goals online. In-game social channel Medal has upgraded the gaming scene, providing gamers with the ability to share and celebrate their gaming milestones across social media with non-gaming friends. Similarly, Fitbit’s premium subscription allows users to share and compete with contacts as they work towards their fitness goals. However, despite our best intentions, goals can be hard to stick to. While 94% of Gen Yers reported making personal-improvement commitments in 2019, 92% of people never actually achieve their New Year goals.

Brands can adapt their messaging to help people recover after a failure instead of giving up
Hipcravo (2019) ©

"Some companies spend millions on marketing campaigns that encourage consumers to post goals on social media. This research shows that it's only effective for certain kinds of consumers," says Dr. Jiao. However, using these findings, brands have an opportunity to adapt their messaging in order to help people hit targets and recover after a failure instead of giving up. Rather than encouraging users to simply share their money-saving aspirations, robo-advice Goals 360 helps Aussies explore and achieve their financial goals in a more holistic way: using face-to-face conversation and advice. And in a bid to combat gym-fatigue, Apple Watch is also experimenting in this space, introducing a rewards scheme that offers people monetary incentives for hitting the gym. 

Matilda Ruck is a junior behavioural analyst at Canvas8. She has a degree in politics and philosophy as well as a foundation in psychotherapy and is passionate about exploring the interplay between creativity, psychology, and culture. Outside of work, you can find her writing short stories, tending to her ginger cat, Thomas O’Malley, or oscillating between yoga and karaoke practice.


12 Feb 20
2 min read

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