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The Effect of Negative Message Framing on Green Consumption: An Investigation of the Role of Shame

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Abstract and Figures

Despite society’s increasing sensitivity toward green production, companies often struggle to find effective communication strategies that induce consumers to buy green products or engage in other environmentally friendly behaviors. To add clarity to this situation, we investigated the effectiveness of negative versus positive message framing in promoting green products, whereby companies highlight the detrimental versus beneficial environmental consequences of choosing less versus more green options, respectively. Across four experiments, we show that negatively framed messages are more effective than positively framed ones in prompting consumers to engage in pro-environmental behaviors. More importantly, we find that anticipated shame is the emotion responsible for this effect. Furthermore, both environmental concern and the type of product promoted serve as moderators; thus, the mediating role of anticipated shame is attenuated when environmental concern is low and the product is a luxury one. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of our work, along with its limitations and some directions for future research.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
The Effect of Negative Message Framing on Green Consumption:
An Investigation of the Role of Shame
Cesare Amatulli
1
Matteo De Angelis
2
Alessandro M. Peluso
3
Isabella Soscia
4
Gianluigi Guido
3
Received: 3 November 2016 / Accepted: 7 July 2017
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017
Abstract Despite society’s increasing sensitivity toward
green production, companies often struggle to find effec-
tive communication strategies that induce consumers to
buy green products or engage in other environmentally
friendly behaviors. To add clarity to this situation, we
investigated the effectiveness of negative versus positive
message framing in promoting green products, whereby
companies highlight the detrimental versus beneficial
environmental consequences of choosing less versus more
green options, respectively. Across four experiments, we
show that negatively framed messages are more effective
than positively framed ones in prompting consumers to
engage in pro-environmental behaviors. More importantly,
we find that anticipated shame is the emotion responsible
for this effect. Furthermore, both environmental concern
and the type of product promoted serve as moderators;
thus, the mediating role of anticipated shame is attenuated
when environmental concern is low and the product is a
luxury one. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and man-
agerial implications of our work, along with its limitations
and some directions for future research.
Keywords Communication Green consumption
Negative emotions Negative framing Pro-environmental
behavior Shame
Introduction
Green products are those manufactured with attention to
minimizing the exploitation of natural resources, the use of
toxic materials, or the emission of waste and pollutants
(Haws et al. 2014; Lin and Chang 2012). Industry evidence
shows that companies across various sectors are increas-
ingly interested in producing and marketing environmen-
tally sustainable products (Delmas and Cuerel Burbano
2011; Romani et al. 2016). For example, Walmart is
working with its suppliers to commercialize greener
products (Haws et al. 2014). Meanwhile, Toyota Motor
Company is highly committed to developing a new gen-
eration of vehicles that promise to reduce CO
2
emissions
by 90% between 2010 and 2050 (Toyota 2015). In the
apparel industry, companies such as H&M, C&A, and
Puma are investing more resources in the development of
greener products made with organic cotton (Organic Cot-
ton Report 2013).
The first three authors are listed in alphabetical order and contributed
equally to the article.
&Cesare Amatulli
cesare.amatulli@uniba.it
Matteo De Angelis
mdeangelis@luiss.it
Alessandro M. Peluso
alessandro.peluso@unisalento.it
Isabella Soscia
isabella.soscia@skema.edu
Gianluigi Guido
gianluigi.guido@unisalento.it
1
Ionian Department of Law, Economics and Environment,
University of Bari, Via Duomo, 259, 74123 Taranto, Italy
2
Department of Business Management, LUISS University,
Viale Romania, 32, 00197 Rome, Italy
3
Department of Management and Economics, University of
Salento, Ecotekne Campus, Via per Monteroni, 73100 Lecce,
Italy
4
Department of Marketing, SKEMA Business School, 60 rue
Dostoı
¨evski, 06902 Sophia Antipolis, France
123
J Bus Ethics
DOI 10.1007/s10551-017-3644-x
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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