Really Rewarding Rewards: Strategic Licensing in Long-Term Healthy Food Consumption

Rishika, Rishika; Feurer, Sven; Haws, Kelly L. (2021). Really Rewarding Rewards: Strategic Licensing in Long-Term Healthy Food Consumption Journal of Consumer Research, 49(2), pp. 268-287. Oxford University Press 10.1093/jcr/ucab059

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Licensing is a well-documented form of justifying individual indulgent choices, but less is known about how licensing affects food decision-making patterns over time. Accordingly, we examine whether consumers incorporate licensing strategically and deliberately in their long-term consumption patterns and identify reward programs as a context in which strategic licensing is likely to occur. We propose that members with lower-calorie consumption patterns strategically indulge more on reward purchase occasions, and that forethought is required for such an effect to occur. A longitudinal study analyzing 272,677 real food purchases made by 7,828 consumers over a 14-month period provides striking evidence of our key proposition. An exploration of the inter-purchase time-related aspect of purchase acceleration suggests that forethought on behalf of consumers is necessary for strategic licensing to occur. A subsequent experimental study (N = 605) comprising five consecutive choice occasions provides additional evidence of forethought by demonstrating that strategic licensing occurs only when expected (but not windfall) reward occasions are involved, and by showing that anticipated negative affect for not indulging is the driving mechanism. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our results for consumers, managers, and public policy makers.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


Business School > Institute for Marketing & Global Management > Marketing


Rishika, Rishika;
Feurer, Sven and
Haws, Kelly L.


H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)




Oxford University Press




Sven Feurer

Date Deposited:

01 Dec 2021 12:31

Last Modified:

24 Sep 2022 02:30

Publisher DOI:


Additional Information:

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication following peer review. The version of record is available online at:10.1093/jcr/ucab059

Uncontrolled Keywords:

licensing, rewards programs, indulgent consumption, food decision making, purchase patterns, self-control




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