Zinkhan protecting the environment’ (Matthes, Wonneberger and Schmuck,

Zinkhan and Carlson observed in their study “Green
Advertising and the Reluctant Consumer” (1995) a heightened interest of
consumers for the earth and its natural environment from the beginning of the
1960s. They stated that consumers are transformed to “green consumers” the moment
they realize that they must become more concerned about their actions towards
the environment in order to preserve their lifestyle intact. Subsequent polls
and studies confirm these claims by presenting global consumer trends, such as
the willingness to buy more expensive “green” products (Integer Group and
M/A/R/C Research, 2011; Mintel, 2010) and the endeavor to incorporate sustainable
ways of living (McKinsey, 2010; FoodDrinkEurope 2011).

Previous literature describes “green consumers” as the
consumers ‘whose purchase behavior is greatly influenced by environmental
concerns’ (Shrum, McCarty and Lowrey, 1995; D’Souza
and Taghian, 2005) and the consumers ‘who are worried about the production process,
in terms of scarce resources consumed, and about product disposal issues (e.g.
recycling)’ and not only about the product acquisition and use.

Environmental concern is a term used in literature as
the ‘feelings that consumers have about many different green issues’ (Zimmer,
Stafford, and Stafford, 1994), ‘a measure of the individual’s concern for the
environment’ (Roberts,1996) or ‘an awareness of environmental problems combined
with the perceived necessity of protecting the environment’ (Matthes,
Wonneberger and Schmuck, 2013). This concept is strongly related with social
responsibility (Roberts, 1996) and consumer purchase intentions (Schwartz &
Miller, 1991), meaning that environmentally aware consumers will be also highly
environmentally concerned and more willing to proceed to eco-friendly buying.
Although one can rationally think that increased level of environmental concern
will result in a higher buying behavior for eco-friendly and sustainable
products (Antil 1984; Hines, Hungerford, and Tomera 1987; Shetzer, Stackman,
and Moore 1991), research reveals conflicting outcomes (Ishaswini and Datta,
2011; Newman, Howlett, Burton, Kozup & Tangari, 2012).

Royne, Levy and Martinze (2011) contend in their research
that highly concerned consumers spend more money for eco-products, while
Maheswaran and Meyers-Levy (1990) demonstrate that these consumers pay more
attention to ads that address environmental matters and considerably think
about the ad messages. On the other hand, Ishaswinni and Datta’s study supports
the hypothesis of the positive interaction between higher purchase intention
and higher environmental concern, but not for premium valued eco-products. Some
arguments that are in line with this trend is that a great number of consumers believe
that environmental protection requires significant personal expenses and is
mainly the accountability of governments and businesses (Maibach, 1993). Furthermore,
it is proven that environmental concern is an important indirect factor in
affecting consumer environmental performances (Bamberg, 2003), even though
other factors, such as price, quality and value have a greater impact in them
(Fierman, 1991; Magrath, 1992; Mandese, 1991, Roberts, 1996; Stisser, 1994,
Whittemore, 1991).

Environmental concern is greatly related with the
involvement of consumers with the environment. Environmental involvement is
mainly constituted of three elements, the environmental concern, the buying
behavior and the attitude towards sustainable and eco-friendly products (Matthes,
Wonneberger & Schmuck, 2013).  Consumers
react differently to advertising messages or, generally, green appeals.
According to Matthes et al. (2013), one reason of this phenomenon can be found
in the level of consumer involvement. Involvement refers to the degree of
personal pertinence and significance of an attitude object (Petty &
Cacioppo, 1990). High environmentally involved consumers or highly involved
green consumers are the ones whose purchase decisions are impacted by environmental
concerns, while low environmentally involved consumers are those who are
slightly or not at all influenced by environmental concerns (Bhate, 2001;
D’Souza & Taghian, 2005; Mohr, Eroglu & Ellen, 1998; Schuhwerk &
Lefkoff-Hagious, 1995). Petty and Cacioppo developed in their study, in 1990,
the Elaboration-Likelihood Model supporting that higher personal involvement
drives consumers to pay more attention to information about a company and form
opinion, which is based mainly on the company’s performance and less in
emotional appeals. Klein and Dawan (2004) notice that high environmentally
involved consumers’ purchase behavior is affected more by a company’s extraordinary
environmental performance, while the purchase intention of lower
environmentally involved consumers for products with superior environmental
performance will be decreased. These consumers will seek for companies which
offer better value or better performance products (Papaoikonomou, Ryan &
Ginieis, 2011; Pickett-Baker & Okazaki, 2008).

A wealth of research has examined the effect of
environmental involvement in the consumer response to green advertising
appeals. A study that explores the attitude of consumers exposed to green
appeals and other appeals, for instance financial ones, suggests that
environmental involvement does not play a significant role on these attitudes
(Schuhwerk & Lefkoff-Hagious, 1995). Matthes et al. (2013) employ three
different advertising appeals, the emotional, the functional and the mixed-type
appeal to demonstrate various effects for each appeal. In more detail,
emotional and mixed-type appeals used in advertisements have a significant
impact on brand attitude, mediated by attitude towards the ad, without the
consumers’ environmental involvement influencing this outcome. On the other
hand, brand attitude is affected by functional advertising appeals only when
consumers are highly environmentally involved, when environmental involvement
is constituted by green purchase behavior or green product attitude (Matthes,
Wonneberger & Schmuck, 2013). Generally, low involved consumers do not
regard green advertising as ‘favorable’, ‘good’ and ‘believable’ and they hold
negative attitudes towards advertisements of eco-friendly and sustainable
brands. It is proposed that the reasons behind this trend are the reluctance
for green product purchases and the aversion to the content and format of
advertisements of green products (D’Souza & Taghian, 2005).

Sustainable involvement will be employed as a
moderator of the effect that different levels and types of message appeals has
in the purchase intention of a consumer exposed to an advertisement of a
sustainable clothing product. It will be suggested that the higher the level of
sustainable involvement, the higher the impact of the message appeals will be
in the buying behavior of the consumer.