Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Factors Influencing Consumer Vulnerability to Weight-Loss Advertising among Obese Consumers

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Factors Influencing Consumer Vulnerability to Weight-Loss Advertising among Obese Consumers

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to investigate what factors are related to weight-loss advertising vulnerability among obese consumers. Questionnaires were filled out by 224 obese individuals during pre-surgery appointments for bariatric surgery. Regression analyses revealed that being female and feeling powerless to lose weight on ones' own were related to higher levels of consumer vulnerability, whereas feeling motivated to lose weight and keep it off was related to lower levels of consumer vulnerability. Ideas for consumer protection and education are given.

Research in the area of consumer vulnerability is still developing. Several researchers have suggested a link between demographic characteristics such as low levels of education, lower income, minority status, gender, and age to consumer vulnerability (Cui & Choudhury, 2003; Hill, 2002; Langenderfer & Shimp, 2001; Laufer & Gillespie, 2004; Lee & Soberon-Ferrer, 1997; Ringold, 2005 ; Smith & Cooper-Martin, 1997). Baker, Gentry, and Rittenburg (2005) described consumer experiences of vulnerability as consumers who "are caught up in circumstances in the environment that they may be unable to control" (p. 131); it is a feeling of powerlessness. Baker et al. (2005) defined vulnerability as a state of powerlessness, lack of control, and dependency in a consumption situation that could cause negative ramifications for the consumer.

Smith and Cooper-Martin (1997) expanded the list of consumer vulnerability factors to include low levels of cognitive ability and restricted mobility; they defined vulnerable consumers as "those who are more susceptible to economic, physical, or psychological harm in, or as a result of, economic transactions because of characteristics that limit their ability to maximize their utility and wellbeing" (p. 4). Though it has not been studied specifically, obesity, in and of itself, may be related to consumer vulnerability-research has linked restricted mobility (Smith & Cooper-Martin, 1997), physical disabilities (Brenkert, 1998), and mental health issues to increased risk of vulnerability.

According to Loewenstein (1996, p. 273), visceral factors with "a direct hedonic impact" and "an influence on the relative desirability of different goods and actions" can influence consumer vulnerability. According to Langenderfer and Shimp (2001), the more motivated an individual is to pay attention to a message (due to poverty, hunger, illness), the more likely they are to be convinced by a particular message.

Vulnerable consumers may actively attempt to control their situations through cognitive, emotional, or behavioral coping strategies (Baker et al., 2005; Hill, 2002). For obese consumers, motivation to pay attention to messages promising weight loss success is high and thus they may be convinced to try another diet or dietary supplement.

Hoch and Loewenstein (1991) theorized that self-control is one of the most important predictors of the ability to delay gratification. They define self-control as the conflict between desire or impulse and willpower. Hoch and Loewenstein discussed how physical and temporal proximity of the reward as well as social comparison can result in impulsive decisions. Strack, Werth, and Deutsch (2006) reviewed the impulse buying literature and summarized the concept of impulse buying to include a push for immediate gratification or the consumer's wish to acquire a product immediately. According to Elliott, Eccles, and Gournay (1996), consumers with impulsive purchasing or addictive consumption problems experience extreme exhilaration and excitement prior to and during the shopping binge, but tremendous feelings of regret and shame after the shopping spree is over. Research also has linked compulsive buying to binge eating disorder (Faber, Christenson, De Zwaan, & Mitchell, 1995).

Facets of Langenderfer and Shimp's (2001) moderators of scamming vulnerability under high and low visceral influence conditions model and Baker et al. …

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