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Go Green! Should Environmental Messages Be So Assertive?

Posted: 1 Apr 2011 Last revised: 27 Mar 2012

Ann Kronrod

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Amir Grinstein

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - School of Management

Luc Wathieu

Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

Date Written: March 29, 2011

Abstract

Environmental communications often contain assertive commands (e.g., Greenpeace’s “Stop the Catastrophe”, Plant-For-The-Planet’s “Stop Talking and Start Planting” or Denver Water Campaign’s “Use only what you need”), even though research in consumer behavior, psycholinguistics, and communications, has repeatedly shown that gentler phrasing should be more effective when seeking consumer compliance. This paper shows that the persuasiveness of assertive language depends on the perceived importance of the issue at hand: recipients respond better to pushy requests in domains that they view as important, but they need more suggestive appeals when they lack initial conviction. We examine this effect in three laboratory studies and one field experiment using Google Adwords. Our findings refer to various environmental contexts (i.e., economizing water, recycling plastic containers, reducing air and sea pollution). The key implication of our findings is that issue importance needs to be carefully assessed (or affected) before the language of effective environmental campaigns can be selected.

Keywords: Persuasion, Assertive Language, Issue Importance, Environmental Marketing, Demarketing, Social Marketing

JEL Classification: M31

Suggested Citation

Kronrod, Ann and Grinstein, Amir and Wathieu, Luc, Go Green! Should Environmental Messages Be So Assertive? (March 29, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1798993

Ann Kronrod (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/kronrodann/

Amir Grinstein

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev - School of Management ( email )

P.O. Box 653
Beer-Sheva 84105
Israel

Luc Wathieu

Georgetown University McDonough School of Business ( email )

3700 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States

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