Green packaging? Not for mainstream brands!

Posted by Oliver Koll on Nov 20, 2018

These days eco-friendly products hit store shelves regularly: Companies incorporate a green mind-set into their product and branding to meet many shoppers’ aspirations for sustainable consumption. A recent online experiment (see figure) with 420 consumers, however, demonstrates that not all brands should emphasize green features on their packaging:

  • Consumers decrease their choice for the mainstream brand by 10%, if the brand adds environmentally friendly cues to its packaging.
  • This decline in choice benefits the “green” niche competitor rather than other mainstream competitors.
  • Consumers’ perception changes explain this shift: The green cue on the packaging of the mainstream brand decreases its perceived performance, with no such effect for green competitor.

This study highlights an important dynamic of shelf-competition for green positioning: trade-offs between performance and sustainability. Brands with a strong positioning on performance should be aware that emphasizing green attributes on their packaging likely damages performance perception.

Source: Wood, S., Robinson, S., & Poor, M. (2018). The Efficacy of Green Package Cues For Mainstream versus Niche Brands: How Mainstream Green Brands Can Suffer at the Shelf. Journal of Advertising Research, 58(2), 165-176.