Dark Nudges: Branding Magnifies the Decoy Effect in Alcohol Purchasing Decisions
Public health policies aim to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms by controlling the cost and availability of alcohol, yet industry actors seek to position branded beverages appealingly vis-à-vis other products.
To inform the development of regulatory strategies, it is important to understand how alcohol branding interacts with seductive pricing strategies to influence purchasing decisions.
Towards this aim, the current study examines how the ‘decoy effect’ may operate to modify purchasing decisions for branded alcoholic beverages.
Ninety-eight “social alcohol users” completed an online Decoy Assessment, choosing from a range of (non)branded, (non)alcoholic beverage offers based on price and quantity. These initial purchasing decisions were then re-assessed when a decoy product – offering a quantity in between the two original offers but at a significantly higher price – was introduced into the choice array.
The decoy modified initial purchasing decisions for alcoholic compared to non-alcoholic beverages, and this effect was exacerbated by alcohol branding.
Heightened self-reported alcohol consumption was also associated with a greater change from choices for branded alcoholic beverages.
When faced with a choice conflict, individuals who consume alcohol may be nudged into selecting more expensive branded alcoholic beverages.
These findings may inform the development of alcohol control policies relating to branding and relative pricing/product placement.