Research has shown that when marketing terms are used correctly and responsibly, product manufacturers can realize significant benefits. The results of a study that explored the effects of green branding on consumer attitudes suggest that a well-implemented green positioning strategy can lead to a more favorable perception of the brand.
The study found that, since consumers use both cognitive and emotional processes to select brands, it is best to give detailed information about a product’s green or sustainable attributes while simultaneously appealing to the emotional benefits of purchasing and using the product.
The authors also emphasized the following: “There should be no doubt that a green brand positioning strategy not supported by relevant environmentally sound product attributes will fall short of success” (Hartmann et al 2005). Peattie and Crane also caution green marketers: “The marketing philosophy and process is built around the customer and the relationship between the company and the customer.
If this is characterised [sic] by cynicism and distrust, then companies are unlikely to be able to bring customers along with them through the changes needed to move towards sustainability. Green marketing will not work in the face of consumer distrust, but then that distrust may be partly a product of the types of ‘green marketings’ that companies have relied upon so far” (Peattie and Crane 2005).
TerraChoice advises green marketing professionals to develop long-lasting customer relationships by being honest about all of the environmental impacts of their products and addressing each impact one at a time. Since there is no such thing as a 100 percent “green” product, the term “greener” is a better alternative (TerraChoice 2010).
Despite the findings (see the discussion on Use / Misuse: Sustainable, Environmentally Friendly, Green above) of Coyle (2004) and Weismann et al. (2009), consumer scrutiny helps reduce greenwashing by motivating manufacturers to be more honest about their products’ environmental attributes—especially among more mature product categories, such as building materials.
According to the 2010 TerraChoice report, green product offerings in these categories increased by an average of more than 104 percent over 12 consecutive months. Study-wide, the green product offerings grew 73 percent.
Manufacturers of products in more mature categories are also more likely to have their products thirdparty certified than manufacturers of products in immature categories (TerraChoice 2010). For more about eco labels and green product certification programs, please see the discussion on Green Products: Key Attributes below.