Sinfully decadent: priming effects of immoral advertising symbols on indulgence

Jasmina Ilicic, Stacey M. Brennan, Alicia Kulczynski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This research introduces an immorality-indulgence priming effect, whereby the presence of immorality symbols (i.e., devil, hell, serpent) versus morality symbols (i.e., angel, heaven, saint) in advertising increase consumer indulgence. Study 1 examines the priming effect of morality symbols on indulgent consumption, controlling for religiosity and belief in afterlife. Study 2 and Study 2b investigate the role that activation of mental representations of rebelliousness has in explaining the immorality-indulgence effect. Study 3 explores the role of immorality symbols on actual indulgent choices. Findings from Study 1 indicate that immorality symbols prime consumer indulgence. Study 2 provides evidence of rebelliousness as the process influencing indulgent product choice (indulgent intention, Study 2b), while ruling out the alternative explanation of image-message congruence. Study 3 provides evidence that immorality symbols increase actual indulgent behavior. This research has important implications for advertisers in the development of advertisements that can influence indulgent behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-73
Number of pages13
JournalMarketing Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Advertising
  • Congruence
  • Indulgence
  • Morality
  • Priming
  • Rebelliousness

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