Consumers regularly waste products with unused utility (e.g., edible food, functioning appliances), but also have an aversion to such wastefulness. The present paper demonstrates that this wasting conflict has relevant managerial implications. Drawing upon cognitive dissonance theory, the authors predict and reveal in three experiments that brand attitudes for everyday mundane products can suffer when the unused utility of such products is wasted. Two scenario studies show that wasting a product with unused utility leads to feelings of discomfort (Experiment 1), and to lower product attitudes (Experiment 2). A final study (Experiment 3) replicates the effect on brand attitudes in an actual consumption situation. Moreover, it shows that brand visibility is a moderator in this process: wasting tends to lead to lower brand attitudes when the brand is visible at the moment of wasting, but not when the brand is not visible. Collectively, these experiments provide novel insights into how and when the generation of waste can have detrimental effects on brand attitudes, demonstrating the importance of consumer waste acts for industry.
- Cognitive dissonance