Wayne State researchers shed new light on the "pleasures of sin"

Mike Ilitch School of Business marketing professor Abhijit Biswas and marketing doctoral student Swati Verma have had an article accepted by the academic journal, Psychology and Marketing.

The paper was co-authored with Abhijit Guha, a former member of the WSU marketing faculty who is now at the University of South Carolina.

The article is titled “Investigating the Pleasures of Sin: The Contingent Role of Arousal-Seeking Disposition on Consumers’ Evaluations of Vice and Virtue Product Offerings.” A full abstract can be found below.

“The topic was discussed in one of our Ph.D. seminar classes,” Verma said. “We started talking about products that were purely vice (e.g. chocolate) and products that contained some element of vice as well as virtue (e.g. heart healthy chocolate). Even though such mixed offering of vice and virtue is considered to be healthy, consumers do not buy into the promise of such offerings and ultimately these products are withdrawn from the market.” 

Verma said that marketers have struggled with mixed products, and need to understand what factors increase or decrease consumers’ evaluations of mixed product offerings.

“In this line of reasoning, we suggest that pure vice offering enhances arousal, and such increased arousal leads consumers to prefer such pure vice offerings over mixed offerings.”

Swati Verma is a doctoral student in the Mike Ilitch School of Business working toward a Ph.D. in marketing. Her research focuses on pricing, consumer decision making, advertising and consumer behavior. Abhijit Biswas is a professor of marketing and the Ph.D. program advisor for the Mike Ilitch School of Business. His research interests include consumer perceptions of price promotion, reference prices, low price guarantees, partitioned pricing, consumer decision making and regret, consumer irritation and advertising effectiveness and source expertise and advertising effectiveness.


Investigating the Pleasures of Sin: The Contingent Role of Arousal-Seeking Disposition on Consumers’ Evaluations of Vice and Virtue Product Offerings


Mixed bundles of vice and virtue are an increasingly important product category; however, marketplace results have been mixed, and many bundles have failed. There is limited examination of how consumers evaluate such bundles. In this paper, we examine consumers’ affective responses and consequent evaluations for a pure vice product versus a mixed vice-virtue bundle.  In Study 1, we find higher purchase intentions for a pure vice product versus a mixed product; also, increased purchase intentions are mediated by differences in arousal. Given that consumers differ in their arousal-seeking dispositions, in Studies 2 and 3 we find that individual differences in arousal-seeking moderate the relationship between product type (pure vice product versus mixed product) and purchase intentions, with arousal-seeking consumers preferring pure vice bundles, and arousal-avoidant consumers preferring mixed bundles. This paper contributes to theory on mixed vice-virtue bundles, and also provides pointers on how to better market mixed bundles.


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