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There is no such thing as “green-ish” products for consumers

Relevant topics Archive, Strategy

  • Neuromarketing Principle:
    When considering greenwashed products, consumers often switch from heuristic processing to systematic processing. The inconsistency between the few green attributes of the product and the price premium can have a negative impact on brand perception.
  • Application:
    Go fully green or not at all.
  • Brainwashing that has gone green

    There has been an increasing amount of warnings about climate change and its rash consequences in the media. For some, attempts to preserve the Earth for the future generations became a cool trend. As a result of this, all sorts of green products have been filling the shelves.

    But what makes a green product? Does a green can make a soft drink environmentally-friendly? Can we call a regular shampoo a green product by adding one natural ingredient? Such a practice of highlighting only a few green attributes is called greenwashing.

    Green, sustainable, eco-friendly, ethical…

    Nowadays, green products are popping up everywhere - even napkins are made from recycled paper. Sometimes, there is ‘proof’ signaling the brand’s green efforts. For said napkins, this is the color. A brown napkin indicates a natural process. Considerable investment is required for this conscious process to be put into place.

    Examples are awash and growing, but how do consumers perceive such attempts?

    When making purchase decisions, consumers employ heuristics to help them decide faster and use the least amount of brain power possible. For example, buying bottled water is a straightforward decision. You see it, you pick it up and you place it in the trolley. But imagine that the next time you scan the bottled water shelf you see eco-friendly water with a hefty price tag. Such green water might be bottled in bottles using less plastic. Nevertheless, it still uses plastic. The discrepancy disrupts the heuristics. You need to think to assess the situation, causing systematic processing to occur.

    When ‘going green’ backfires

    When motivated to use systematic processing, consumers will scrutinize product attributes. This makes them more likely to see through products that are not as green as they seem.

    Moreover, ethical concerns arise from a perceived attempt to sell an otherwise conventional product at a high price will lead consumers to scrutinize its price to infer a high monetary sacrifice. Low involvement product, such as conventional bottled water vs. green water evokes an apparent inconsistency between few green attributes and a high price. High price is not consistent with the number of green attributes. This leads to the perception that a company is misleading consumers by trying to charge a higher price for an otherwise conventional product.

    Go fully green or not at all

    Marketers must be mindful of the fact that green products trigger consumers to examine such products’ information more carefully. Therefore, marketers should design only truly green products. By only going half-way and adding only a few green attributes, will negatively impact the perception of consumers. Attempts to charge higher prices for relatively non-green products are likely to hurt the company.

    Take-home points

    • Greenwashing is a practice to advertise products with only a few green attributes as being truly green.
    • A discrepancy between high price and only a few green attributes engages consumers’ systematic processing, scrutinizing product’s attributes.
    • Greenwashed products are perceived as a high monetary sacrifice.
    • When consumers assess greenwashed products, they may be motivated to explicitly express a negative relationship between ethicality and green claims.
    • For a truly green product, the willingness to pay premium prices is significantly higher.
  • There is no such thing as “green-ish” products for consumers
  • Reference:

    Lee, J., Bhatt, S., & Suri, R. (2018). When consumers penalize not so green products. Psychology & Marketing, 35(1), 36-46.


    Further Reading

    • A New Excuse To Use When You Order Fast Food

      A New Excuse To Use When You Order Fast Food

      Have you ever been to a pub with the intention of doing just a few drinks and going home early, only to stay until closing time? A lot of people probably have. If you are one of them, have you ever wondered why you've indulged yourself much more than intended? There are several excuses you could tell yourself to justify staying longer than you should have. Maybe it was a really good night out and it would have been a shame to miss it. Maybe the DJ was playing your favorite music. Or maybe you're just bad at planning.


      A less common excuse is the dim lighting in the pub. Few people will believe you if you tell them that your hangover is caused by the lighting in the pub. However, research has indicated that this may have a significant effect on your night out after all. It turns out that the amount of light does more than just setting the atmosphere.

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