Selling Painful Yet Pleasurable Service Offerings: An Examination of Hedonic Appeals

Stephanie Q. Liu, Anna S. Mattila, Lisa E. Bolton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


People consume service experiences that combine pleasure and pain (e.g., roller-coaster rides and massage therapy)—but the question of how to market such experiences is not well understood. To address this gap, the present research investigates consumer response to such service offerings as a function of (i) hedonic framing that emphasizes pain versus pleasure, (ii) promotion versus prevention concerns either chronically or situationally salient to consumers, and (iii) the presence versus absence of a service guarantee. Consumers with a prevention (vs. promotion) focus react more favorably to hedonic framing that emphasizes pleasure, whereas consumers with a promotion (vs. prevention) focus react more positively to hedonic framing that emphasizes pain due to differences in processing discomfort. In addition, a service guarantee is shown to bolster the reactions of prevention-focused consumers but undermine the reactions of promotion-focused consumers to a pain-framed (but not pleasure-framed) service offering. Together, these findings provide guidelines to service providers regarding how to fine-tune marketing strategies when promoting painful yet pleasurable experiences. For example, advertising should align hedonic framing with the consumer’s situationally salient regulatory concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-352
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Service Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Information Systems
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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