Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims #536013-00004

Submission Number:
Timothy Smith
University of Minnesota
Initiative Name:
Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims
Comments are provided based on recent academic research addressing the effectiveness of complex green messaging in advertising, conducted by Drs. Timothy Smith and Sergio Molina at the University of Minnesota. While the research examined complex life-cycle-based information in both end-consumer (B2C) and business-consumer (B2B) environments, the attached file focuses exclusively on organizational purchasing environments within the building sector (architects and engineers, specifically). Comments: D.2: Within the B2C setting (packaged beauty care product), exposure to a fictitious third-party certification label (compostable packaging, without criteria presented) led to improved perceptions of message credibility. But, exposure to these labels did little to improve attitudes toward the advertisement, the company, the brand, or purchase intent. E.2.b: Results indicate that LCA-based information can be effective within an advertising medium in enhancing message credibility, attitudes toward the brand and company, and positively influencing behavioral intentions toward purchasing, even though this information is viewed as complex and detrimental to attitudes toward the advertisement itself. More specifically, results from the B2C experiment indicate that LCA-based communications make for more poorly reviewed advertising, but the credibility gained through explicit LCA-based environmental disclosures favorably influences the perceptions toward the company and the brand. These results are confirmed in the business-to-business (B2B) experiment focused specifically on the building sector. Evidence from this study suggests that, within environmentally aware and sensitive recipients (USGBC affiliated architects and engineers), advertisements with environmental messages are more effective than those presenting functional product benefits alone, but only when the messages are substantiated with elaborated LCA-based information. Practitioners are to reconsider the position that simple and appealing advertisements are most effective to an overall marketing communication strategy addressing environmental performance. Simple messages are often required to gain market awareness and break through the noisy hypermedia marketplace; however, our results suggest that a firm?s ability to gain credibility in its message can compensate for many of the negative effects of highly complex messages. While significant debate remains with regard to standard LCA reporting criteria, advertising and other promotional claims will most likely continue as a mechanism by which firms present their products and services in the best possible light. This includes communications based on accurate, non-deceptive, though potentially incomplete (depending of scope and boundaries of LCA), information. Particularly given the evidence that end-use consumers may not directly process additional LCA-based information, but rather generate favorable associations with firms willing to provide this additional information (i.e. the company must be strong if it is willing to fully disclose all of this information, even though the actual information is not processed or acted upon directly)., LCA researchers, practitioners, and policy makers play an important role in creating appropriate standards and certifications associated with these techniques. Without such initiatives, the ability of LCA to provide credible marketing claims may be diminished.