Monday, April 19, 2010

Do Green Products Make Us Better People?

Here's an unusual article from the journal Psychological Science that might have no immediate use by any of your clients, but I'm sharing it nonetheless. A study from the University of Toronto argues that certain people, when simply exposed to green products (either in a market, or in advertising), act more altruistically and generously than those who actually buy the same product.

This is an extension of what's known as "priming," whereby consumer behavior can be influenced by exposure to imagery - for instance, seeing the Apple logo inspires creativity in some folks. The authors argue that green products, marketed to promote a higher sense of social responsibility, are meant to inspire within the consumer the motivation to do good works.

Conversely, they also argue that consumers who act on this exposure are the equivalent of the person who runs a 5K, then goes home and eats three Big Macs as a reward for their good work. Through a series of experiments, they noted how participants were more than willing to lie or steal in the immediate wake of buying a green product. See the green product, and feel a boost in your moral self-esteem. Buy it, and you feel like you have moral capital to spend.

I find this stuff fascinating, but, again, I'm not immediately sure of what lesson our business clients could learn from this. Boost security around the store, I guess, if the target market is the green consumer.

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