Here’s a hypothetical to ponder. Imagine going to an IMAX theatre, grabbing a pair of 3D glasses, and watching a new movie you have been waiting all year to see. Sounds like fun, right? Now, imagine engaging in that same experience with one minor change. Before the movie begins, you are informed that the 3D glasses you grabbed on the way in were produced from 100% recycled materials. Would that change the way you felt about the movie experience?
This was the gist of a new article appearing in the Journal of Consumer Research. Specifically, a team of researchers led by Ali Tezer of the University of Montreal tested the idea that using a green product would (irrationally) enhance the enjoyment people felt toward an accompanying consumption experience.
They found that it did.
“We show that using a green (vs. conventional) product enhances the enjoyment of the accompanying consumption experience,” state Tezer and his team. “We refer to this effect as the greenconsumption effect and demonstrate that it is driven by warm glow, defined as feeling good about one’s self after engaging in a pro-social behavior.”
To arrive at this conclusion, Tezer and his team recruited 198 people to participate in a short experiment. In this experiment, participants were asked to evaluate a new pair of Sony headphones. The catch was this: some participants were told that the headphones were made from recycled materials while others were not given this piece of information. Furthermore, some participants were asked to listen to three songs (“Skin & Heart & Lungs” by Language Room, “All I Can Give to You” by Anna Coogan and North 19, and “Hey Young World” by Ruckus Fo’Tet) while other participants were only asked to examine the product (but not to use it).
The researchers then asked participants to answer a series of questions including how likely they would be to purchase the headphones, how good they would feel about purchasing the headphones, and, for those who listened to the songs, how much they enjoyed listening to the music.
Here’s what they found. First, participants who were informed that the headphones were made from recycled materials reported greater enjoyment when using the product. Additionally, participants expressed a higher likelihood to purchase the product when they were led to believe the headphones were a green product – but this was only true for participants who used the product. For participants who examined the product but did not use it, there was no difference in purchase intentions based on whether the product was presented as a green product or not. The authors state, “These results support the argument that using green products is critical in the enjoyment of the consumption experience and further leads to higher purchase intentions for the […] product.”
Next, the researchers explored possible causes of the greenconsumption effect. Specifically, they tested whether green products made people feel good about themselves which, in turn, produced the (irrational) boost in product satisfaction. Again, they found evidence in support of this logic. “Analyses further revealed that warm glow feelings underlie the effect of using green (vs. conventional) products on the enjoyment of the accompanying consumption experience and purchase intention for the focal product,” state the researchers.
The authors conclude, “The current research shows marketers can enhance consumption experiences by going green. For example, a movie theater offering recycled (vs. conventional) 3D glasses, a gym implementing eco-friendly (vs. conventional) gym tools, or a restaurant offering bamboo (vs. plastic) chopsticks can improve consumer experience.”