After all the effort marketers are putting into communicating their green claims, a new study shows that consumers — American consumers at least — continue to misunderstand phrases commonly used in environmental marketing and advertising. Often, this gives products a greater “green halo” than they may deserve.
At the same time, these same consumers are willing to punish a company for using misleading claims.
- 71% say they will stop buying the product if they feel misled by an environmental claim.
- More than a third (37%) of these will go so far as to boycott the company’s products entirely.
These results come from 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker, which found that a growing number of Americans (97% in 2011, as compared to 90% in 2008) believe they know what common environmental marketing claims such as “green” or “environmentally friendly” mean, yet their interpretations are often inaccurate.
The study also found that more than two-in-five Americans (41%) erroneously believe these terms mean a product has a positive (i.e., beneficial) impact on the environment. Only 29% understand that these terms more accurately describe products with less environmental impact than previous versions or competing products.
“It’s telling that three years after Cone first conducted the Green Gap survey, not much has changed,” says Jonathan Yohannan, Cone’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility in a released statement. “Consumers continue to be confused about environmental claims, often without realizing it. This creates a huge risk for consumer backlash. To overcome this gap between environmental messaging and consumer perception, companies need to provide detailed information in-line with the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines in a place where consumers are making purchase decisions.”
The 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker presents the findings of an online survey conducted March 7-8, 2011 by ORC International among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,040 adults comprising 515 men and 525 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ± 3%. Cone is a strategy and communications agency engaged in building brand trust.