Rebecca Scott, Cardiff University – Paying for Pain

Would you pay for pain?

Rebecca Scott, lecturer in marketing and strategy at Cardiff University, delves into a few reasons why some people do.

In January 2016, I joined Cardiff University as a Lecturer in Marketing and Strategy. For the period 2014-2016 I was an Assistant Visiting Professor in Marketing at the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona and continue to teach Marketing and Human Behaviour for the Summer Marketing Minor Course.

I studied at UNSW in Sydney Australia, gaining my PhD in February 2015. During this period, I held a 6 month visiting scholar position at the University of Arizona.

In 2009 I completed my BSc in Business Administration with First Class Hons at the University of Bath.

I have taught at all undergraduate levels, my more recent teaching activities include: Services Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Retail Marketing, Marketing Policies & Operations and Fundamentals in Marketing.

My professional experience includes: Industry Analyst for Google (London), Ethnographic Researcher for Ogilvy and Kimberly-Clark (Sydney), Sales and Marketing for Toyota (Bath) and Junior Publicist of luxury consumer goods for Mission Media (London).

My research focuses on the social and cultural aspects of marketing. Using ethnographic approaches, I am specifically interested in areas of experiential consumption, multisensory consumption and ‘the body.’ I have two working papers that are in the advanced stages of submission, and three papers that are in the early manuscript stages. My research stream is centered around the role of the body in consumer research. My research blends discrete and overlapping bodies of work from consumer behavior, marketing, sociology and anthropology, which facilitate an understanding of embodied consumption.

Recent Publications

Rebecca Scott, Julien Cayla and Bernard Cova, 2017, “Selling Pain to the Saturated Self,” Journal of Consumer Research, 44(1), (forthcoming).

Rebecca Scott and Mark Uncles, 2017, “Bringing Sensory Anthropology to Consumer Research,” European Journal of Marketing, (forthcoming).

Paying for Pain


Pain is a fundamental facet of human existence. We have all felt it, we have all suffered from it. It has such force that even a simple migraine can destroy our capability to function.

Consumers spend billions of pounds every year on medication and health care – to alleviate pain. So how can we comprehend people who pay for an experience marketed as painful?

In trying to understand this conundrum, we develop our insights from a study of Tough Mudder, a grueling adventure challenge involving a series of approximately 25 military-style obstacles to overcome in half a day. Participants run through burning hay bales, wade through torrents of mud, slither through tightly enclosed spaces and even crawl through 10,000 volts of electric wires.

To understand how pain could add meaning to an extraordinary experience, we consider the reduced physicality of office life and the boredom contemporary work practices seem to generate. The worries and constraints in everyday life create a “saturated self”. As a result, a painful event like Tough Mudder targets “cubicle-bound masses yearning to breathe free.”

Through sensory intensification, we find that pain brings the body into sharp focus, allowing individuals to rediscover their corporeality. By flooding the consciousness with gnawing unpleasantness, pain provides a temporary relief from the burdens of self-awareness. Finally, when leaving marks and wounds, pain helps consumers create the story of a fulfilled life. In a context of decreased physicality, market operators play a major role in selling pain to people, who use pain as a way to simultaneously escape reflexivity and craft their life narrative.

Read More:
Oxford Academic – Selling Pain to the Saturated Self

Cardiff University

Cardiff Business School

The Atlantic


Daily Mail