As health-conscious Americans try to kick caffeine, nicotine,
alcohol and fatty foods, you'd think companies like Colt 45 and Philip
Morris would lose money. But quitting our habits may actually up their
It's true that if people completely abandoned their vices, then
sales of these products would suffer. But consumer behavior isn't so
simple, says Klaus Wertenbroch, Ph.D., a professor at the Yale School of
Management. He points out that our difficulty in overcoming addiction
leads to two opposite buying styles: We either buy large, cheap
quantities of a product when we feel like indulging our weakness, or we
buy the smallest--but more expensive--package when we're feeling virtuous
and are trying to wean ourselves off of it.
This schizoid purchasing pattern, says Wertenbroch, plays right
into the pockets of marketers looking to increase sales. By targeting
both the hopeful habit-breaker and the inevitable cheater, they can be
sure to make a buck.