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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Business Research, Volume 65, Issue 9, September 2012, Pages 1254–1263
This paper suggests that advertising campaigns directed at increasing consumer demand for green energy should emphasize not only environmental concern and utilitarian benefits, but also psychological brand benefits. The theoretical framework proposes three distinct psychological benefit categories potentially enhancing consumer attitudes toward green energy brands and increasing purchase intentions: warm glow, self-expressive benefits, and nature experiences. A sample of 726 consumers was exposed to experimental advertisements for a fictitious green energy brand. Findings confirm most predicted effects and underline the overall significance of psychological brand benefits. Only self-expressive benefits do neither affect participants' attitudes toward the experimental brand nor their purchase intentions. Nature experience has the strongest influence on brand attitude. Multi-group structural analysis shows that the nature experiences level evoked by the advertisements moderates the effects of the behavioral antecedents studied on brand attitude and purchase intention. The findings provide keys to improving green energy branding and advertising strategy.
After the 1970s oil crisis, public awareness of energy related issues has attracted the attention of consumer researchers (e.g., McDougall, Claxton, & Ritchie, 1981). Early findings suggest that environmental awareness encourages consumers to decrease their energy consumption (Kasulis, Huettner, & Dikeman, 1981) and to adopt solar energy (Labay & Kinnear, 1981). “Green energy” or “green power” is derived from renewable energy resources, including photovoltaic and thermoelectric solar energy, biomass, geothermal and wind energy. Currently, some consumers pay a premium price for branded green electricity provided by, for example, Green Mountain Energy (U.S.), Ecotricity (U.K.), Lichtblick (Germany), NaturEnergie (Austria), or Iberdrola Energía Verde (Spain). Higher generation costs and the consequently higher market prices constitute the principal barrier to consumers' adoption of green energy (Salmela & Varho, 2006). Public opinion surveys find that up to 30% of consumers are willing to pay a price premium for green energy (Eurobarometer, 2003, Eurobarometer, 2005 and Zarnikau, 2003). However, to date, green energy brands' market share remains low (Gan, Eskeland, & Kolshus, 2007) and costs 20% more than regular electricity charges discourage most potential consumers (Salmela & Varho, 2006). Green energy's future success depends on effective branding and marketing communications strategies designed to enhance consumers' benefit perception (Roe et al., 2001 and Truffer et al., 2001). While technical characteristics and green electricity labeling deliver utilitarian benefits to consumers, purchasing green energy potentially derives psychological benefits too. This paper analyzes influences of consumers' environmental concern and perception of green energy brands' benefits on attitude toward the brand and purchase intention. The literature review identifies three distinct psychological benefits potentially affecting behavioral intentions: warm glow feelings derived from the moral satisfaction of contributing to the common good environment; self-expressive benefits from conspicuous environmentally sound consumption; and nature experiences evoked by natural brand imagery. The empirical study exposes consumers to experimental advertisements for a fictitious green energy brand measuring utilitarian and psychological benefit perceptions, attitudes toward the brand, and intention to purchase. Structural equation analysis examines the relationships proposed in the theoretical framework.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
6.1. Findings and theoretical implications Most previous research concerning environmentally friendly consumption behavior focuses on personal factors and personality traits, such as values related to environmental conservation and general concern for the environment. Several studies also address the effect of environmentally sound product attributes delivering utilitarian benefits. Empirical results of this study confirm the influence of consumer's environmental concern on purchase intention and a partial mediation of this effect by brand attitude (H1a and H1b), consistent with previous research (e.g., Bang et al., 2000, Clark et al., 2003 and Ek, 2005). Also the perception of environmental utilitarian benefits, such as reduced emissions through the use of renewable energy resources, exerts a significant influence on participants' purchase intention, partially mediated by attitude (H2a and H2b), confirming assertions in the literature (e.g., Roe et al., 2001 and Wüstenhagen and Bilharz, 2006). With respect to the behavioral effects of psychological benefits related to adoption of green energy, the study confirms the influences of two of the three proposed variables. As hypothesized in the literature (e.g., Wiser, 1998 and Wüstenhagen and Bilharz, 2006), the psychological benefit warm glow arising from contribution to the improvement of the environmental common good increases intention to purchase the experimental green energy brand (H3a). This effect is direct, however, disconfirming partial mediation by brand attitude (H3b) exists. The behavioral effect of warm glow is apparently independent of attitude formation toward a specific brand. Findings do not support the hypothesized positive influence of self-expressive benefits on brand attitude and purchase intention (H4a and H4b). The mainly private nature of energy use may hinder the perception of such benefits, which presuppose social visibility of consumption behavior. These findings are consistent with Griskevicius et al. (2010), who show that status motives increase desire for green products only when consumed in public, but not in private. Besides, signaling theory posits that the drive for status especially increases the appeal of green products if they are relatively expensive. Electricity, however, is a basic non-expensive commodity, even at a significant price premium for green energy. A further contribution of this study lies in analyzing the association of green energy brands with natural imagery. Exposed to advertisements showing pleasant natural landscapes, participants report subsequently that the brand evoked feelings similar to those experienced in contact with actual nature. The level of nature experiences varies across the advertisements depicting different landscapes and the one showing a cityscape. Whereas subjects exposed to some of the natural scenes score high on the nature experiences dimension, those exposed to the urban and desert images score significantly lower. The degree of nature experiences evoked positively affects intention to purchase green-branded energy, mediated by its pronounced influence on brand attitude (H5a and H5b). Exploratory findings suggest that manipulation of the level of nature experiences moderates other variables' relationships. In particular, exposure to natural imagery enhances the influence of environmental concern on purchase intention, possibly by increasing the perceived salience of environmental issues. Environmental utilitarian benefit's effect also is stronger when participants score high on nature experiences. By contrast, warm glow's highest overall influence occurs when nature experiences' level is lowest: that is, following exposure to advertisements in which the visual element is other than pleasant natural landscape. 6.2. Managerial implications This study's findings have significant implications for marketers of green energy. Psychological benefits in addition to utilitarian environmental benefits potentially enhance attitude toward green energy brands and increase purchase intention, contributing to renewable energy adoption. For consumers to perceive a significant level of utilitarian benefits, brand communications should supply relevant and sufficiently detailed information. Current energy-labeling schemes are too limited for this purpose. Information supplied should include atmospheric emissions, energy mixes and details of new renewable capacity installed (Johnson and Frank, 2006, Salmela and Varho, 2006 and Truffer et al., 2001). To foster the association of warm glow psychological benefits with the brand through appropriate advertising, messages should appeal to the audience's sense of community, stressing that, when purchasing green-branded energy, they can “feel good while doing good” socially and environmentally (Wiser, 1998). Lastly, the study demonstrates the clear potential of green energy advertisements displaying lush green vegetation and clear water to evoke pronounced psychological brand benefits. Exploratory empirical results on the moderating effects of such advertising induced nature experiences indicate that, at high levels, they could override the warm glow effect, lowering its influence on purchase intention. 6.3. Limitations and future research The empirical study is primarily of an exploratory nature, focusing on a single green energy brand in an experimental survey and does not measure actual purchasing behavior. However, the questionnaire assesses behavioral intentions which have a stronger relationship with behavior than do attitudes (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975). Future research should further develop the proposed psychological benefit constructs and confirm findings in a broader setting. Subsequent studies should address on a theoretical level the moderating influences of the nature experiences manipulation. Research on consumers' mindsets (Kim & Meyers-Levy, 2008) could provide alternative explanations for some of the observed effects.