Virtue products (such as sunscreen lotion and dental floss) promise future benefits and, at the same time, carry immediate and ongoing usage costs. Although consumers acknowledge the benefits of virtue products, they find it difficult to consume them on a daily basis.
This research focuses on a key problem in the consumption of virtue products–ongoing use–and identifies ways to help consumers maintain ongoing consumption. We propose and show that products’ attributes (in terms of future versus present benefits) and consumers’ dispositional self-control interact to shape the consumption of virtue products.
In two field experiments that use different product categories–dental floss and sunscreen lotion–we show that low self-control participants consume a virtue product whose product description highlights a present benefit more than they consume a virtue product whose description highlights a future benefit.
Among high self-control participants the reverse effect was observed. In a third study we show the same pattern of results when willingness to pay is measured.