UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The use of habit-change strategies in demarketing: reducing excessive discretionary consumption Gallagher, Katherine


According to the Bruntland Commission, sustainable development requires consumers in industrialized nations to reduce significantly their consumption of resources. This research brings a new perspective to the reduction of discretionary consumption, using both theoretical and empirical approaches. Demarketing programs have often been unable to achieve sustained reductions in consumption. It is argued here that they have incorrectly treated demand reduction as a variation on the usual marketing problem of building demand, when it is (1) more complex than typical marketing problems, and (2) essentially similar to clinical habit change problems. The dissertation reviews the literature on habits and automated processes, introduces the concept of “habit-like” behavior, and argues that reducing discretionary consumption can often be framed as a habit-change problem. The Prochaska and DiClemente (1984) Revolving Door Model of Behavior Change (RDM) describes how people change habitual behaviors in clinical situations. Study 1, an energy conservation (cold water laundry washing) survey (n=340), using a decisional balance framework, indicated that the RDM generalizes to demarketing situations and that it is consumers’ perceptions of the importance of disadvantages, not advantages, that influence consumption reductions. The research develops new theory to explain habit-like behavior changes. Based on previous theory and findings on automated processes, it is proposed that changing habit-like behavior proceeds in three steps: de-automation, volitional behavior change, and consolidation. Study 2 was a laboratory experiment (n= 117) in which two demarketing approaches (the traditional approach and the habit-change approach) competed in two situations (when the consumption behavior targeted for change was under volitional control, and when it was habit-like). Contrary to expectations, a persuasive message supplemented by limited practice of the new behavior was more effective when the old behavior was volitional than when it was habit-like, suggesting that the disadvantages of changing are more evident to people whose behavior is habit-like. There are two important practical implications: that (1) segmentation based on the RDM stages of change may be more powerful than other approaches; and (2) it is more important to address disadvantages of reducing consumption than to emphasize advantages.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.