Consumer Behavior

The Power of Streaks: How They Motivate Consumer Behavior


Streaks have a unique ability to compel and motivate individuals to stick with a specific activity. From attending consecutive football games to maintaining a daily surfing streak, people have found great motivation in keeping their streaks alive. Marketers have recognized the power of streaks and have incorporated them into various apps and platforms to drive engagement and behavior. In a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, researchers Jackie Silverman and Alixandra Barasch explore the phenomenon of streaks and their influence on consumer behavior.

While there is no universally accepted definition of a streak, the researchers identified four underlying characteristics that distinguish an activity streak. First, streaks require consistent performance within defined time parameters. They are governed by rules that determine what constitutes successful completion of the activity and the schedule for doing so. For example, a streak might involve completing a daily session of 50 pushups.

Second, streak-holders attribute their ability to maintain the streak to their own resolve and determination.

Third, a streak is perceived as a series of uninterrupted repetitions of the same activity.
Fourth, a streaker quantifies the duration of the series, being able to accurately state the number of consecutive days or the exact start date of the streak.

It is important to understand that a streak is distinct from other behavior patterns, such as habits and collections. While habits are reflexive and triggered by specific contexts, streaks require conscious strategy and planning to ensure the activity is completed in various situations. Additionally, while failing to perform a habitual behavior occasionally has little impact on future behavior, failing to maintain a streak ends the streak itself. This can either discourage or motivate individuals, depending on their mindset

Streaks tap into various psychological drivers of behavior, making them effective motivators in several ways. First, they introduce a higher-level goal of keeping the streak alive, giving purpose to individual activities. Second, streaks add structure to an activity, simplifying decision-making and providing a sense of organization. The level of importance placed on goal achievement and structure influences an individual’s commitment to a streak.

Furthermore, the design and structure of a streak can impact its effectiveness. For example, a streak that involves daily meditation for at least 20 minutes may be more appealing and lead to greater commitment than a streak involving weekly meditation for a total of 140 minutes. The daily streak provides structure and simplifies decision-making, encouraging regular engagement in the beneficial behavior.

Streaks also have the ability to gamify the underlying activity. By establishing rules and quantifying the outcome, streaks turn activities into challenges that people enjoy participating in. The element of competition or self-improvement can make the experience more engaging and motivating.
Activities that align with individuals’ identity and values are more likely to generate commitment to a streak. For example, someone who identifies as religious may find a daily streak of prayer more appealing than a streak of playing a game. A streak associated with one’s desired identity can serve as a means of demonstrating and affirming that identity to others.

While streaks can be powerful motivators, they do not appeal to everyone or every situation. Some individuals may be deterred by the feeling of obligation associated with streaks. They may fear that streaks could control their lives or limit their freedom. It is crucial for streaks to be voluntary and align with individuals’ personal goals and values.

As the new year begins, many people make resolutions to improve their mental or physical health. However, a significant percentage of people fail to follow through with these resolutions. Structuring resolutions as streaks may provide the extra push needed to maintain commitment and achieve long-term success. The temporal landmarks associated with important dates, such as New Year’s Day or personal milestones, add meaning and structure to streaks, creating a fresh start effect that can enhance motivation.

In conclusion, streaks have proven to be powerful motivators in influencing consumer behavior. By incorporating streaks into apps and platforms, marketers can effectively drive engagement and encourage individuals to maintain their commitment to a specific activity. Understanding the underlying characteristics of streaks and their psychological drivers can help businesses create compelling streak experiences that align with individuals’ goals and values.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it