Why Temporal Landmarks Work Well in Marketing Campaigns
Neuroscience tells us that humans use temporal landmarks every single day. What are they? Temporal landmarks are certain dates that naturally inspire us to turn over a new leaf, start something new, or end something. Here are a few examples:
- Starting a gym membership on January 1st
- Deciding to lose weight on one’s birthday
- Planning a project to launch when school starts in the fall
Temporal landmarks have a special significance to us over regular, ordinary days. We naturally use them to create a line, a marker between the old and new. We also use temporal landmarks to motivate ourselves toward a goal, or renew our commitment to a goal.
In business, we can use temporal landmarks for ourselves, and we can also use certain landmarks in our marketing. The trick is to know which temporal landmarks will work in business and which will not. Here’s an example for you – many online marketers will use their own birthday to offer special prices to their customers. However, that’s not a wise use of a temporal landmark, because your own birthday is not a significant date to your customers unless you are a celebrity. It’s a personal landmark to you.
Which Dates Are Temporal Landmarks?
There are two types of temporal landmarks.
A date becomes a landmark because of personal meaning to us, or because it is a social construct in our culture (think July 4th in the United States or Bastille Day in France).
Here’s a list of temporal landmarks, divided into social and personal. For marketing purposes, it works best to use social temporal landmarks because they are shared by everyone in a larger community or culture. If you want to motivate yourself to start something new, however, you can use a personal one.
Social temporal landmarks:
- The first day of each month
- The first day of spring, summer, winter, and fall
- National holidays (for the country you are in or the countries to which you market)
- The first day of a new year
- The start of summer vacation from school
- The start of a new semester
- Graduation day
- Religious holidays
Personal temporal landmarks:
- Your birthday
- The birthday of family members
- The birthday or day of death for your ancestors
- The day you started a new job (including the anniversary of that date each year)
- Your anniversary
- The day you starting dating your spouse
- The date of your divorce
- The date you moved into a new home (or left a home or city)
- Personal religious events such as a baptism, confirmation, etc.
- The first day you are home from a vacation
- Other dates that have significance to you
- The day you became licensed or certified in your field
- The day you became a member of a club or society
- The day you graduated from high school, college, or graduate school
How to set up a campaign using a temporal landmark
If you’re going to experiment with using temporal landmarks in your marketing, it helps to plan these out 6 months to a year in advance. You might need to start collecting more information about your existing customers, too. For example, if you decide to offer a special to a previous customer on her birthday, you’ll need to know that date and how to contact the person.
I suggest that you pick a particular landmark and become known for a special marketing campaign or event every year at that same time. To work effectively, marketing must touch into the emotions that surround the particular temporal landmark you’re using. For example, if you are using July 4th you’ll touch into emotions such as patriotism, parades, family reunions, or beach vacations.
TIP: When planning your marketing after the first year, be sure to touch back to the previous year with photographs or memories. Let this become one of your trademark events each year.
The benefit to using these special dates is that you can easily plan them out in advance, decide what your special offer will be, and set up the emails, snail mail, phone calls, or whatever other contact method you’re going to use. It keeps you from last minute marketing efforts.
Why do Temporal Landmarks Work?
Temporal landmarks in marketing work because humans look to these days to make a fresh start, learn something new, or make a change. We look for ways to mark the ending of something, or to start over with a goal we haven’t yet met. In Daniel Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, he says, “This new period offers a chance to start again by relegating our old selves to the past. It disconnects us from the past self’s mistakes and imperfections, and leaves us confident about our new, superior selves.”
When you use temporal landmarks to market, it naturally reminds your prospects or existing customers that time is passing, and that they can focus or recommit to something they want to achieve. They can also use these landmarks to let go of something (for example, smoking or eating sugar.)
Personally, we can use these points in our life to pause and reflect. When we do that, we are more open to change and new ideas.
Find out more about temporal landmarks and marketing in my video (it's about 6 minutes long).
Pick one social temporal landmark to create a marketing campaign around. Once you’ve selected the day, decide what you will offer, and to whom (prospects or existing customers, or both?). Go ahead and write your copy, create your marketing materials, and schedule your emails. You’re all set! Make sure to evaluate after this campaign is over, to see how you can improve it next time.
Have you used temporal landmarks for yourself or for marketing purposes? If so, I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.
It can be fun and productive to use a special marketing campaign around a temporal landmark. Try it and see how it benefits your business.