Zinkhan and Carlson observed in their study “GreenAdvertising and the Reluctant Consumer” (1995) a heightened interest ofconsumers for the earth and its natural environment from the beginning of the1960s. They stated that consumers are transformed to “green consumers” the momentthey realize that they must become more concerned about their actions towardsthe environment in order to preserve their lifestyle intact.
Subsequent pollsand studies confirm these claims by presenting global consumer trends, such asthe willingness to buy more expensive “green” products (Integer Group andM/A/R/C Research, 2011; Mintel, 2010) and the endeavor to incorporate sustainableways of living (McKinsey, 2010; FoodDrinkEurope 2011).Previous literature describes “green consumers” as theconsumers ‘whose purchase behavior is greatly influenced by environmentalconcerns’ (Shrum, McCarty and Lowrey, 1995; D’Souzaand 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 asthe ‘feelings that consumers have about many different green issues’ (Zimmer,Stafford, and Stafford, 1994), ‘a measure of the individual’s concern for theenvironment’ (Roberts,1996) or ‘an awareness of environmental problems combinedwith the perceived necessity of protecting the environment’ (Matthes,Wonneberger and Schmuck, 2013). This concept is strongly related with socialresponsibility (Roberts, 1996) and consumer purchase intentions (Schwartz &Miller, 1991), meaning that environmentally aware consumers will be also highlyenvironmentally concerned and more willing to proceed to eco-friendly buying.
Although one can rationally think that increased level of environmental concernwill result in a higher buying behavior for eco-friendly and sustainableproducts (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 researchthat highly concerned consumers spend more money for eco-products, whileMaheswaran and Meyers-Levy (1990) demonstrate that these consumers pay moreattention to ads that address environmental matters and considerably thinkabout the ad messages. On the other hand, Ishaswinni and Datta’s study supportsthe hypothesis of the positive interaction between higher purchase intentionand higher environmental concern, but not for premium valued eco-products. Somearguments that are in line with this trend is that a great number of consumers believethat environmental protection requires significant personal expenses and ismainly the accountability of governments and businesses (Maibach, 1993). Furthermore,it is proven that environmental concern is an important indirect factor inaffecting consumer environmental performances (Bamberg, 2003), even thoughother 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 theinvolvement of consumers with the environment. Environmental involvement ismainly constituted of three elements, the environmental concern, the buyingbehavior and the attitude towards sustainable and eco-friendly products (Matthes,Wonneberger & Schmuck, 2013).
Consumersreact differently to advertising messages or, generally, green appeals.According to Matthes et al. (2013), one reason of this phenomenon can be foundin the level of consumer involvement.
Involvement refers to the degree ofpersonal pertinence and significance of an attitude object (Petty , 1990). High environmentally involved consumers or highly involvedgreen consumers are the ones whose purchase decisions are impacted by environmentalconcerns, while low environmentally involved consumers are those who areslightly 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 involvementdrives consumers to pay more attention to information about a company and formopinion, which is based mainly on the company’s performance and less inemotional appeals. Klein and Dawan (2004) notice that high environmentallyinvolved consumers’ purchase behavior is affected more by a company’s extraordinaryenvironmental performance, while the purchase intention of lowerenvironmentally involved consumers for products with superior environmentalperformance will be decreased.
These consumers will seek for companies whichoffer better value or better performance products (Papaoikonomou, Ryan , 2011; Pickett-Baker & Okazaki, 2008). A wealth of research has examined the effect ofenvironmental involvement in the consumer response to green advertisingappeals. A study that explores the attitude of consumers exposed to greenappeals and other appeals, for instance financial ones, suggests thatenvironmental involvement does not play a significant role on these attitudes(Schuhwerk & Lefkoff-Hagious, 1995).
Matthes et al. (2013) employ threedifferent advertising appeals, the emotional, the functional and the mixed-typeappeal to demonstrate various effects for each appeal. In more detail,emotional and mixed-type appeals used in advertisements have a significantimpact on brand attitude, mediated by attitude towards the ad, without theconsumers’ environmental involvement influencing this outcome. On the otherhand, brand attitude is affected by functional advertising appeals only whenconsumers are highly environmentally involved, when environmental involvementis constituted by green purchase behavior or green product attitude (Matthes,Wonneberger & Schmuck, 2013). Generally, low involved consumers do notregard green advertising as ‘favorable’, ‘good’ and ‘believable’ and they holdnegative attitudes towards advertisements of eco-friendly and sustainablebrands. It is proposed that the reasons behind this trend are the reluctancefor green product purchases and the aversion to the content and format ofadvertisements of green products (D’Souza & Taghian, 2005).
Sustainable involvement will be employed as amoderator of the effect that different levels and types of message appeals hasin the purchase intention of a consumer exposed to an advertisement of asustainable clothing product. It will be suggested that the higher the level ofsustainable involvement, the higher the impact of the message appeals will bein the buying behavior of the consumer.