Marketing products as remedies can promote risky behaviorJust like a "get out of jail free card" makes going to jail seem like no big deal in Monopoly, a new study in the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research shows that remedy marketing can undermine risk avoidance messages. In fact, consumers exposed to marketing for remedies – including smoking cessation and debt consolidation programs – are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking and overspending.
"The existence of a remedy could suggest to these consumers that the risk is manageable," explain Lisa E. Bolton (University of Pennsylvania), Joel B. Cohen (University of Florida), and Paul N. Bloom (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).
"Put simply, the remedy may take some of the risk out of risky behavior."
Notably, remedies are not perceived this way by the consumers who are not attracted to risky behaviors in the first place. According to the study – the first to investigate remedies as a class of products with implications for risk perception – these consumers see remedies as further evidence that the behaviors are risky and should be avoided. It is the consumers most at risk or in need of help who are most harmed by remedy marketing.
"Ironically, remedy messages boomerang on the people they are intended to help the most," say the authors. "[This is] a serious problem for individuals and at a societal level."
Lisa E. Bolton, Joel B. Cohen, and Paul N. Bloom. "Does Marketing Products as Remedies Create 'Get out of Jail Free Cards'?" Journal of Consumer Research. June 2006.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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