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How "Limited Time Only" Deals Boost Profits: Elizabeth Dunn In <em>Forbes</em>
Economics | May 17, 2013

How "Limited Time Only" Deals Boost Profits: Elizabeth Dunn In Forbes

Fans of the popular McRib sandwich from McDonald's may wonder why the company constantly puts the item on and off their menu. It may also leave other companies stumped as to why the fast food chain would offer such a profitable item for a "limited time only." Economics speaker Elizabeth Dunn has an explanation as to why some companies limit customer access to their favorite products. As she explains in her new book, Happy Money (co-authored with Mike Norton), the move is actually a stroke of marketing genius. "Limiting your access to everything from the McRib to Maseratis helps to reset your cheerometer," an excerpt of the book, featured in Forbes magazine, reads. "That is, knowing you can’t have access to something all the time may help you appreciate it more when you do."

"Making it a treat" is one of the principles to happier spending that she outlines in her book. Only allowing yourself to indulge in a certain item once in a while helps you appreciate its value over time. Because, apparently, you can have too much of a good thing. As Dunn explains, understanding this principle is beneficial not only to the consumer, but to the company looking to cash in on customer purchasing behavior. "People may savor everything from the [KFC] Double Down to [Disney's] Dumbo more when they know these delights won’t be available forever," Dunn and Norton write in the book, "increasing their own satisfaction even as companies ring up increased sales." Companies in any industry from food, to film, to yacht and auto-sharing services can benefit from this idea, Dunn explains. Disney renews interest in old films by telling consumers to buy a copy today because the title will be put "back in the vault" soon. SailTime allows consumers to share yachts with seven other people, capitalizing on the idea that you can only rent the luxury sailing vessel when it is not in use by someone else. Can't afford a Ferrari? No problem! You can rent one instead from a car sharing company to get the thrill of cruising around town in a supercar once in a while. These companies are turning their products into "treats" that consumers don't always get to have—but love indulging in when they can.

As Dunn argues in Happy Money, making smarter spending decisions can indeed turn your cash into contentment. One of the key points she mentions in the book is that the amount of money we have doesn't always dictate happiness. Not being able to afford to buy the things we want all of the time, for example, actually makes us happier when we do have the opportunity to buy a dream product. As she pointed out in a recent First Buisness interview, making a higher salary doesn't always contribute to greater content, either. While she isn't suggesting that people don't want raises or larger incomes, she does say that rewarding employees with time off instead of more cash can make them happier and more productive. In a talk that is truely applicable to anyone (given that money and happiness are universal concerns for us all), Dunn teaches us the science of smarter spending. Whether you want to make your customers, your employees, or yourself happier, Dunn has five principles that will help you make it happen.

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