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Consumers are more forgiving if faulty products are environmentally friendly

  • Date: Wed, Jan 10, 2024

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By Bluesky PR

Consumers react less negatively to the failure of green products than conventional products, finds new research from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School (UCD Smurfit School), HEC Montréal, and Ted Rogers School of Management.

The rise in green products designed to be more environmentally friendly, such as plant-based laundry detergents or sunglasses made from biomaterials, represents a societal shift towards sustainability and a change in consumer behaviour.

Across an empirical field analysis and eight controlled experiments, Dr Anshu Suri, UCD Garfield Weston Assistant Professor of Marketing at UCD Smurfit School, alongside Dr Ali Tezer and Dr Matthew Philp, investigated what happens when these products fail or don't live up to expectations. This included analysing consumer ratings on, consumer willingness to write negative reviews, and consumer preference for refunds over replacements, among other measures.

The findings show that consumers want to help others avoid a bad experience while also supporting environmentally-friendly products. This conflict leads to consumers reacting less negatively to the failure of green products than conventional ones, which researchers refer to as the ‘Greenguard Effect’.

“Consumers don’t overlook shortcomings of green products, but they are more forgiving, perceiving their restraint from negative feedback as a form of support for the environment,” says Dr Suri.

“By not reacting negatively to green product failures, consumers believe they are being more prosocial, as negative reaction may harm the success of a product that benefits the environment and society.”

This research suggests incorporating environmentally-friendly attributes into product design can mitigate negative consumer reactions to potential product failure. Companies could also devote more resources towards managing product failures of their conventional products since they are more susceptible to negative responses from consumers.

This offers critical insight for those involved in green product manufacturing and marketing as it can shape future marketing strategies and product development.

These findings were first published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

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