Green products are environmentally-friendly products with features that are less harmful to people and the planet. For instance, green products may require fewer resources to produce, consume less energy, contain non-toxic ingredients, or create fewer emissions. Some examples include biodegradable waste bags, LED light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, organic cotton clothing, and reusable coffee cups and water bottles.
But according to new research from two universities in the United Kingdom, companies looking to promote their latest environmentally-friendly product should actually downplay its greenness if they want consumers to buy it.
The study, by researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Leeds, found advertising that highlights a product’s green attributes can lead consumers to associate it with weak performance. The findings, which were recently published in the Journal of Advertising, indicate that companies should downplay a product’s green qualities and instead promote it on more traditional aspects.
An example of these two distinct advertising strategies – green emphasis versus green understatement – can be found in the auto industry. Car manufacturer Toyota prominently highlights the low emissions and low fuel consumption features of the Prius, employing what the researchers term as ‘explicit signals’. In contrast, automaker Tesla reduces the prominence of its green attributes, focusing instead on its cars’ acceleration, handling, and other performance-related characteristics. This is known as the ‘implicit signals’ marketing approach.
After conducting two experiments, the research team found that the implicit, rather than explicit, marketing approach about greenness leads to higher performance evaluations and purchase intent.
Consumers appear more likely to engage in pro-social actions when it’s accompanied by some form of personal benefit.
Photo, posted December 21, 2019, courtesy of Flickr.