Get Out of Jail Free Cards: the Dark Side of Remedy Marketing


Pollay Prize winner says aggressive marketing of debt consolidation could cause some to continue or intensify risky financial behaviour

Dr. Joel B. Cohen, a world renowned consumer psychologist studying potential adverse effects of marketing, is winner of the UBC Sauder School of Business’s 2011 Richard W. Pollay Prize honouring intellectual excellence in research on marketing in the public interest.

In a May 20 public lecture titled, “Get Out of Jail Free Cards: the Dark Side of Remedy Marketing,” the University of Florida professor emeritus discussed his research team’s most recent studies examining the unexpected downside of aggressively marketed remedy products.

Cohen described how and why assertively pushing remedies, such as debt consolidation loans, can backfire and lead some people toward a tendency to continue or amplify detrimental financial habits.

While he applauds the creation of products and services that make the lives of consumers safer, his research reveals that aggressive marketing of some debt remedy products can reduce perceptions of risk likelihood and risk severity in people predisposed to debt problems.

“Knowing that a debt consolidation loan was available to bail them out, people took less personal responsibility for their actions and were willing to undertake even more risky behavior,” said Cohen.

In his lecture he discussed the factors that lead remedy marketing to have a “boomerang” effect and the development and assessment of informational interventions designed to overcome these effects.

About Dr. Joel B. Cohen 

Dr. Joel B. Cohen is Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida where he played a major role in developing the university’s highly regarded consumer behavior program and established the Center for Consumer Research in 1975.

In addition to his current research, Cohen is one of the foremost experts on the effects of cigarette marketing. He has served as a consultant and expert witness for the United States Federal Trade Commission and has been invited to appear as a witness before congressional committees. He was also selected by the American National Cancer Institute to conduct a national survey investigating consumer understanding of cigarette health risks, reporting the results to the President’s Cancer Panel and in an American Journal of Public Health lead article.

About the Richard W. Pollay Prize 

Awarded annually by the Sauder School of Business at UBC, the Pollay Prize is named for Sauder Professor Emeritus Richard Pollay in honour of his contributions as a scholar, teacher and advocate in the areas of marketing and advertising in the public interest.