Green signals good for marketing


Using renewable energy to make a product improves its consumer appeal, according to research from Swinburne University of Technology.

Simon Pervan, Associate Professor of Marketing, and his PhD student, Suni Mydock, found that when university students viewed advertisements for earphones, they were more likely to express an intention to buy the earphones if they were advertised as having been made with renewable energy.

“The study proved that products made with renewables are preferable,” said Associate Professor Pervan.

Marketing products made from recyclable or recycled materials was popular in the 1990s and 2000s. But over-hyped environmental credentials — socalled greenwash — is thought to have undermined the effectiveness of such marketing.

However, until now there has been very little research into whether green credentials are good for business. “We didn’t know if consumers thought it was important that a product was made with renewables, because it hadn’t been looked at before,” said Associate Professor Pervan.

The researchers also wanted to find out if consumer behaviour depended on personality type. They hypothesized that people who believe they have control over outcomes, rather than outcomes being due to external forces, would be more likely to be interested in products made with renewable energy.

“We thought that they would be more receptive to this type of appeal,” said Associate Professor Pervan. However, they found there was no difference in interest in products made with renewables between the two personality types.

Later, a second study into personality found that people focused on the future were more willing to pay a higher price for a product made with renewable energy compared to those who were not.

“Someone who focuses on the future is more interested in big-picture appeals,” said Associate Professor Pervan.

While he is optimistic about the appeal of products with green credentials, he has reservations.

“Marketing needs to be developed with caution to ensure it doesn’t become greenwash, which creates a sceptical and then cynical public,” he said.

Published in Swindburne Research Impact, March 2018, Nature Custom Publishing.

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