No rest for the wicked: the epidemic life cycle of wicked consumer behavior

Matthias Koch, Davide Christian Orazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Wicked consumption behavior, namely the inflated consumption of unhealthy commodities such as tobacco and soft drinks, constitutes a leading risk for noncommunicable diseases including cancer and diabetes. Despite the fatal impact of wicked consumption on societal welfare, both the social marketing literature and the public policy literature lack a systematic framework capturing the unfolding of the wicked consumption cycle and providing guidance on when and how to intervene upstream. Drawing on historical data on tobacco and soft drink consumption in the U.S., we propose a four-stage epidemic life cycle of wicked consumer behavior. The biological and habitual factors that make different types of wicked consumption appealing to consumers are reinforced by the marketing activities of the manufacturers. To overcome the strong resistance posed by habitual wicked consumption, we articulate a typology of upstream intervention parameters and provide guidance on when and how to intervene depending on the desired long-term equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-368
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Macromarketing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • epidemic life cycle
  • macromarketing
  • obesity
  • policy
  • social marketing
  • upstream intervention
  • wicked consumer behavior

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