Green new products sometimes boost brand attitude

Posted by Oliver Koll on Mar 16, 2020

Brands offer green products to address consumer calls for more corporate ambition in protecting the environment. For example, the fashion brand Armedangels recently introduced their detoxdenim line, a jeans made of organic cotton, which is free of pesticides, heavy metals and chlorine. Not surprisingly, such green moves are welcomed by some consumers – but which brands actually benefit?

A recent article shows that green new product introductions (GNPIs) boost brand attitude only under certain conditions:

  1. Quantity of green messages:
    Using too many different messages around the GNPI is ineffective in enhancing brand attitude. A clear and consistent core message with a few green claims that are ideally negatively framed (i.e., no pesticides) reduces information overload, confusion, and scepticism.
  2. Product type: GNPIs are less effective in virtue ‘healthy’ product categories like granola bars or smoothies than GNPIs in vice product categories like chocolate or alcohol. GNPIs and related claims in vice product categories can offset negative attitudes – for example, a study by van Doorn and Verhoef, 2012, advised avoidance of organic claims in vice categories because they may hurt perceived product quality.
  3. Source credibility: An established green positioning enhances the positive spill-over effect from GNPIs on brand attitudes. Brands with a low visibility of past green actions risk a greenwashing image. Additionally, it is easier to develop a green position for younger brands compared to older brands, that find it challenging to update their established image.

Brands need to strategically evaluate their situation (i.e., heritage, positioning and product category) before taking action on GNPIs (see figure). For example, young brands in vice categories would experience the highest attitude boost if they are able to authentically introduce GNPI, compared to younger and older brands in virtue categories that have already established a green image.

Source: Olsen, M. C., Slotegraaf, R. J., & Chandukala, S. R. (2014). Green claims and message frames: how green new products change brand attitude. Journal of Marketing, 78(5), 119-137.