Partially Green, Wholly Deceptive? How Consumers Respond to (In)Consistently Sustainable Packaged Products in the Presence of Sustainability Claims

Nigel D. Steenis*, Erica van Herpen, Ivo A. van der Lans, Hans C.M. van Trijp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Firms often emphasize “green” benefits for products that are only partially more sustainable than alternatives (e.g., a more sustainable packaging with similar product ingredients). The current article posits that such strategies can lead to a perceived claim–fact discrepancy and examines to what extent this makes consumers feel deceived and detracts from attitudes and purchase intentions, even though consumers can intrinsically value the (partial) sustainability improvements. In addition, given that marketing communication often relies on puffery such as exaggerated language and (visual) hyperbole, the article also investigates the effect of the use of puffery versus more subdued claims. Findings from two experiments unveil that when the actual sustainability of packaged products is (partially) discrepant with an overt sustainability claim, this leads to higher perceived deception. The use of puffery has both pros and cons, such that it adds to perceived sustainability but also to perceived deception, and it moderates the effects of actual sustainability. Furthermore, the results provide initial support for the idea that sustainability improvements in only peripheral attributes (packaging) are perceived as more deceptive than sustainability improvements in only central attributes (product contents).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-178
JournalJournal of Advertising
Volume52
Issue number2
Early online date16 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2023

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