Advertising painful yet pleasurable experiences: The interaction of hedonic frame and regulatory focus

Open Access
Liu, Qing
Graduate Program:
Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 25, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Anna S Mattila, Dissertation Advisor
  • Anna S Mattila, Committee Chair
  • Hubert Van Hoof, Committee Member
  • David Allen Cranage, Committee Member
  • Lisa Elizabeth Bolton, Committee Member
  • Hospitality Management
  • Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Regulatory Focus
  • Hedonic Consumption
Despite the fact that people seek painful yet pleasurable experiences (e.g., roller coaster rides, massage therapy), the existing hospitality literature offers little guidance on how to market “pleasurable pain” to consumers. While pain appeals and pleasure appeals are widely used by hospitality firms, research examining the effectiveness of these hedonic appeals is lacking. To address this gap, the current dissertation investigates consumers’ affective and cognitive reactions to hedonic appeals in a series of three experimental studies. Drawing on regulatory focus theory, I argue that the pain frame―signaling risk involved in a service experience―is more congruent with a promotion focus that motivates risk taking. In contrast, the pleasure frame better matches a prevention focus as it relates to risk aversion. In the advertising context, persuasion will be enhanced when there is a correspondence between hedonic frame and regulatory focus. Consistent with my predictions, the results of this dissertation suggest that the pain frame generates more favorable brand evaluations among individuals with a chronic promotion focus, whereas the pleasure frame is more effective among individuals with a chronic prevention focus (Study 1). In addition, brand evaluations are enhanced when pairing the pain frame with promotion-focused information or when pairing the pleasure frame with prevention-focused information. The underlying reason is that compatible (incompatible) messages reduce (increase) consumers’ felt discomfort (Study 2). Moreover, I demonstrate that when the pain frame is employed, offering service guarantees will boost brand evaluations among prevention-focused individuals but backfire among their promotion-focused counterparts (Study 3). Results from mediation analyses in the three studies provide convergent evidence that negative affect and positive affect underlie the observed interaction effects on brand evaluation.