Consider green goods. Rebecca Strong and I conducted an experiment to quantify the impact of labelling washing-machine tablets as ‘ecologically friendly’.
We sent a group of consumers the same type of washing-machine tablet. They washed a load of clothes and reported back on the tablets performance. The twist was that half were told that they were testing a standard supermarket tablet, the other half a green variant.
Once again, there was an element of subterfuge. We didn’t ask consumers directly what they thought of green goods. Generally, they make positive noises. Instead, we monitored behaviour in test and control conditions.
The results were clear. Those who used the green variant rated the tablet as worse on all metrics.
Respondents scored the eco tablet 9% lower for both effectiveness and likeability, while the number who would recommend the product was 11% lower and the number who would buy it themselves, 18% lower than for the standard version.
Despite eco-friendly products often having a higher price, consumers who tested the green tablet were only prepared to pay £4.41 on average compared to £4.82 for the standard version. Consumers believe that products involve a trade-off: improved eco-friendliness entails corresponding loss in cleaning efficacy. This is a concern for any brand interested in a green variant. If brands in this category are going to successfully sell green variants, they’ll need to counteract these negative associations, or spend heavily to bolster their cleaning credentials.